Author Archive

Graphical memoirs

January 4th, 2010 by jason

I just finished reading Stitches, by David Small. Excellent book, about events in his life when he was a boy. The art style is lovely, very fluid, a little creepy sometimes, funny in others, and beautiful the whole way through. The story itself is compelling. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it going in, but couldn’t put it down.

Graphical memoirs are definitely big right now, with Persepolis and Fun Home being a few of the more prominent examples. The voice that I hear when I read them is a different kind of voice. Usually a little subdued, as past events are related to me, even when something exciting or dramatic happens. It’s almost like there’s a kind of detachment that happens when I read these books, as if I feel like I’m the character in the book, but since the history is not mine, I can’t completely feel the emotions that the author may be trying to relate. I am fascinated by the memoirs, though. I’ve never read non-graphical memoirs that I can remember. I wonder if I’d enjoy them as much as I’m enjoying these.

Any recommendations for other graphical memoirs?

How many comics does it take to get to the center of the internet?

October 28th, 2009 by jason

This is the type of thing I’ve been waiting for for awhile. Not just for comics, but for all sorts of magazines, but it’s going to be especially nice for comics. That is, if the publishers get on board, of course. I’ve been reading stuff on Marvel’s Digital site for awhile, plus webcomics for years now, not to mention Zuda, and cd collections. I really don’t have any problem reading comics on a computer screen. And imagine this: you’re on a trans-oceanic flight, and don’t want to read the latest Michael Crichton or Dan Brown. Depending on capacity for the device, you can have hundreds of issues of comics in your lap for reading during the flight. Sure, you could use a laptop, but then, you could use a laptop for a music player as well.

I’d like to see some more details soon, like a price point, capacity, what kind of format the comics and magazines are going to be in, not to mention how much it’ll cost for the comics. But unless there are some outrageous drawbacks, this is going on my list of things to save up for.

Next Book Club

October 4th, 2009 by jason

wonderful-wizard-of-oz-1We’ll be reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the recent Marvel adaption by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, issues 1-8. Tentatively scheduled for Saturday, 7 November.

ReadComics Podcast #037 – Boobs, Robots and Spaceships

July 18th, 2009 by jason

Join us tonight, dear friends, as we delve once more into the madness that is the ReadComics podcast. Subdued madness, in this case, as we talk about our trips to the comic shop and the library, and what we found there. Mike bought Marvel, Jason checked out some Tezuka, and Marty waxes wanly about Thor. We also prepare for the San Diego Comic Convention, which none of us will attend.

Listen to Podcast Episode #037 (21.1 MB, 46 minutes)

Buddha Kapilavastu

July 6th, 2009 by jason

Written and drawn by Osamu Tesuka

I just finished this first volume of eight of the life of the Buddha, and I’m flabbergasted. Buddha is for everyone who thinks they hate Manga. Even more, Buddha is for everyone who thinks they hate comics.

I’ll admit, that I’ve had a prejudice against manga, even as there’s been some that I’ve read and enjoyed. I look at the shelves at the bookstore and at the library, and see the millions of volumes of Naruto, encroaching on the graphic novels. And I shake my head at what has happened to comics. Recently, however, I took someone else’s lead and decided to revisit the idea of reading Japanese comics, and looked up some suggestions from the Around Comics forum. That led me to 20th Century Boys and Pluto. Pluto is a retelling of the Astro Boy comics of Osamu Tezuka, who is given posthumous author credit. I read a little about Tezuka, and decided to look up some of his work. Paging through the volumes at the library, the first thing I noticed was how different the artwork is from my idea of Japanese comics. This was much more like something out of Segar’s Popeye or Barks’s Uncle Scrooge. He was known as the Godfather of Japanese Comics, whatever that meant, and almost all of his series have been highly praised. He was the creator of Astro Boy, both the cartoon and the comic. And, of course, I feel if it’s at the library, it’s worth a shot. I may check it out and return it after reading five pages, but it helps the library’s circulation numbers. With Buddha, I was hooked almost instantaneously.

With Buddha Kapilavastu, we witness the birth of Siddhartha, although this is more of something occurring in the background, while the lives of monks, slaves, pariahs and generals take the center stage. We meet Tatta, Narradatta and Chapra, Chapra’s mother, and General Budai. Some of them are introduced as villains, but over the course of the chapters, are given more rounded characters and you can’t help but warm to them. The stories of these characters are epic, with high adventure, humour, and romance, and more than a little violence. It was a brutal world at the time of the Buddha’s birth, and we’re witness to the cruelties of the class system of that era. It’s enough to bring you nearly to tears, reading how the world and society treat Tatta, the Pariah, and Chapra and his mother, both slaves by birth. Tezuka interconnects all these characters, weaving their lives into a tapestry, with the birth of Siddhartha currently just a slight embroidery at the edge.

The art, as I said, is quite different from most of the manga I’ve seen. There are traditions in Japanese comics, in the shapes of the faces, in the expressions and what sweat drops and shading signify. You can see that in this work, but it’s more of a hint than anything else. It reminds me a lot more of the animation styles in the French co-produced cartoon of the Mysterious Cities of Gold. From what I’ve read about him, Tezuka was heavily influenced by Disney, and Tezuka in turn influenced a lot of anime artists since then. As well as having his own style, he likes to play with panel borders, and includes several highly detailed panoramic landscapes in the volume.

While I don’t think I’m going to picking up every volume of Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, I am going to continue with Buddha, and checking out Tezuka’s other work, like Black Jack and Dororo. I might even watch some Astro Boy, having never actually seen it. I’ve just cracked the surface of this artist’s body of work, and there’s a lot left to see.

Free Comic Book Day

May 6th, 2009 by jason

Free Comic Book Day was Saturday, and I hit four stores, only two of which were worth going to. The Source and Big Brain always do it up, though, and I amassed a full run of the FCBD offerings…minus Nascar Heroes. I opted not to get that one. It was probably really well written and would’ve changed my life forever. I’ll have to make do with Blackest Night #0 instead. I also made a point of buying stuff at the three stores that actually gave me free comics.

At the Source, I picked up my pull of comics, which consisted of RASL #4, and also the DVD of Black Orchid, a Doctor Who story which I hadn’t bought yet. At Big Brain, I bought Queen & Country Declassified Vol. 1, which I had been looking for for some time. Nice price for the trade, less than ten bucks! And at Beyond Shinders, I grabbed issues 3 and 4 of Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. It was my first trip to Beyond Shinders, and while quiet, it was very reminiscent of the old downtown store. I’ll have to go check out the suburban stores, which are actually in old Shinders locations.

I have issues

March 16th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

Justice League of America 17-21
Marvel Boy 1-6 (Morrison series)
Titans East Special #1
The Titans 1-6
Iron Man: Director of SHIELD 29-32
Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four 1-3
Hedge Knight II: Sworn Sword 1-6

Man, I’m so far behind on these. I probably can’t legitimately write too much about my thoughts on the above, since it’s been weeks now since I’ve read them, and so much has been read between then and now. Let’s see what I can remember…

Morrison’s Marvel Boy. Dig that kooky retcon, man. He’s been brought into the main Marvel continuity as part of the Dark Avengers, but when did he move from whatever earth this six-issue mini took place in to the regular Marvel Earth?

The Titans relaunch…nothing too exciting. It’s basically getting the band back together, isn’t it? Have they become the Rolling Stones of superhero teams? And it just seems wrong to have it not drawn by Perez. Trigon’s new look works for him. Did I say Rolling Stones? Trigon was definitely modelled after Ozzy.

Iron Man’s art was a little disturbing. I got kind of an uncanny valley experience looking at the people’s faces and how their bodies were positioned. How many stories can we have that are about Tony dealing with the unintended consequences of his actions regarding technology?

I like these Hedge Knight stories. Who knows, maybe I’d actually enjoy Martin’s series about pageantry and heraldry. Mike has been recommending it again and again.

I have issues

February 25th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

Birds of Prey 118
GeNext 1-5
Ms. Marvel 25-30
Invincible Iron-Man 1-7
Punisher War Journal 18-23
JLA 72-76
Teen Titans 24-26, 29-33, Annual 1
Outsiders 24-25, 28
Robin 146-147
Infinite Crisis 5-6
Jack of Fables 17-21

And I thought I had a lot of comics to talk about during my trip. Apparently, I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately, and have just been tearing through the trades. Again, I’ll break this up into a few posts for manageability.

Birds of Prey 118 was part of the Dark Side Club crossover that had been happening in Teen Titans, with Misfit and Black Alice duking it out for the entertainment of the masses. I liked this single story better than any of the ones with the Titans, probably because it seemed to have a bit more background on what was going on with the club. A bit of gruesomeness with Misfits powers, not to mention a deepening mystery surrounding her and Black Alice. Too bad the series is getting cancelled. Maybe DC will turn the Bat-family books into an anthology series. That would actually be kind of nice.

GeNext was kind of disappointing. I think that I’m looking for the classic Claremont that I remember from the ’80s, and I’m just not going to find that. I either have to accept him for how he writes now, or just give up on him completely. Personally, I think he’d be better off staying off the mutant books and writing something completely different. His history with the X-Men is going to colour everything he writes with those characters from now on. GeNext really seemed more like a marketing plan than a good story. It feels like Marvel trying to invent schemes to find the “youth market”, like a new young set of mutants set however many years in the future, tying into a few other titles of a similar theme. But hey, I was part of the youth market once, and I got into comics because I enjoyed the stories they were telling in the regular books at the time. I still think that they don’t need to trick kids into reading comics, they just need to have comics where kids are going to find them.

Ms. Marvel is more Secret Invasion side story. I’m expecting the actual Secret Invasion trade from the library soon, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think of that after having read all the side stories first. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more that way; the biggest complaint I’ve heard about it is that nothing really happens issue after issue. That’s probably because everything is happening in these crossover series. Ms. Marvel seems to be a bit more bloodthirsty in this trade, pretty much deciding skrulls during wartime are fair game for slaughter. Melo’s art is very reminiscent of Chaykin, especially considering the violence involved in the Battle of Manhattan arc.

Speaking of Chaykin, I think he’s a good fit for Punisher War Journal, at least as good as Steve Dillon on the Punisher Max series. I’m not sure what I think of Matt Fraction and Rick Remender on this series. It could just be that the character is hard to identify with, and it really depends a lot on how he’s being written. Garth Ennis did such a great job with Punisher Max, and the regular series, and PWJ has seemed a little….silly in comparison. Of course, more than anything, I think the Punisher is more of a foil than a character in his own right. This arc kind of ties up a few things about his history, right in time for the next arc to connect into Secret Invasion. The whole thing about a SHIELD agent obsessed with the Punisher has seemed a little contrived to me, and now having him in a crossover with skrulls? It’s getting a little cosmic for Frank Castle. Next he’ll end up in a team-up with Rocket Raccoon.

Fraction is also writing the new Invincible Iron Man series. I’m not sure why another Iron Man series was necessary to complement the current Leader of SHIELD series. Maybe they just wanted to give Fraction more work. The interactions between Tony, Pepper and Rhodey are great, but it seems to be retreading a lot of Orson Scott Card’s Ultimate Iron Man series. (Yeah, I read the Card series–he’s a bastard, but I got them from the library, and I’m a sad completist fan).

I have issues

February 20th, 2009 by jason

I never read The Question in the ’80s when it was coming out, but since DC seems to be publishing everything that Denny O’Neil wrote, and I can get it from the library, I figured why not. I really liked how the character was used in 52. This run is very different from that portrayal, with Vic Sage being a bit more of a bastard. I’d read O’Neil’s run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and he’s very topical. I wouldn’t say these Question stories are dated, in fact, I think they’re kind of timeless, but you get the same sense of the ’80s as you do when you watch a movie like American Psycho. Cowan’s art also defines the era, with the women’s hairstyles and shoulderpads. The art reminds me of Sienkewicz. I wonder if the Ditko stories have been collected anywhere. I’d love to read those and see how the character differs.

I loved the New Warriors comic in the ’90s, and I’ve recently started hunting them down at conventions from the quarter bins. Even when I got out of collecting in the ’90s, I would still stop in at Shinders and read this one on the rack during my lunch break. I’d never read the reality show mini-series version, and having them be the fall guys for Civil War (not to mention killing off half the team) left a sour taste in my mouth. The current run feels like it’s building to something, but taking its own sweet time to do it. There’s definitely plenty of action, but some of the secret motivations are going too long without a reveal. I know that the next arc ties in to Secret Invasion, and I’m enjoying where the creators are going with it as a counter to the registration act policies. It’s a bit of a stretch to suspend disbelief with the amount of tech they’re supposed to be reverse-engineering, but I guess it is a question of whether you can believe this but not this. Comics do seem to be in love with child geniuses these days, particularly of the technological variety. There’s Amadeus Cho in the Hulk/Herc comics, Marvin and Wendy in Teen Titans, the Blue Beetle’s posse, and now Kaz, Grace and a third whose name I forget in New Warriors. Oh, and the Japanese Toyman in Superman/Batman. Must be the new math.

Speaking of stories going on and on, the Gog/Magog story in Justice Society of America, tying in the Kingdom Come continuity is something I’m ready to be done with. I’m still enjoying the writing, and the characters, but I just don’t care about Kingdom Come enough. It was an okay series, but I just didn’t connect with it as anything other than an Elseworlds story. More interesting is the tie-in story bringing Power Girl home to Earth-2.

My thoughts on ElfQuest are going to get their own post, I think.

I have issues

February 19th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

The Un-Men 6-13
The Mighty Avengers 13-15
Teen Titans/Legion of Super-Heroes Special
Teen Titans 15-23
The Question 13-18
New Warriors 6-13
ElfQuest 6-10
New Avengers 38-42
Jokers Asylum
Justice Society of America 13-18 + Annual 1

A whole bunch of comics this time, since I was unable to post during my trip to the Doctor Who convention. I’ll break this into a couple of posts, probably.

The Un-Men was just starting to get interesting, bringing in Swamp Thing continuity, when it got the axe. Referencing Arcane and introducing his insect creatures made me take notice of the series more, but I guess for sales it was too little too late. I suppose it’s nice that they even put the series out in two trades and I was able to get them from the library.

Mighty Avengers and New Avengers are both Secret Invasion tie-ins with these issues. I still haven’t read the main story of Secret Invasion yet, so I was afraid that there would be much spoiled, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. Part of New Avengers is set in the Savage Land, without explanation of how the team got there, but for the most part, both MA and NA are having stories set in the background. You get what are practically one-off stories, where the main event is being hinted at, and here you have all the cool stuff that’s going on while the big guns are off saving the world. I approve. I think that I could probably skip SI itself and still know what’s going on from reading these.

Teen Titans had a couple of story arcs, one of which I read a few years when I was getting caught up on all the Infinite Crisis lead-ins. The stories get pretty dark starting around this period, as the characters deal with the aftermath of Identity Crisis and Doctor Light regaining his memory, and finding out how fallible their heroes are, not to mention the possibility that they’ll grow up evil. I really enjoyed the introduction of Speedy, Green Arrow’s HIV+ protege, and the massive reunion of just about every former Titan. I’m surprised they didn’t get George Perez to draw it.

To be continued…

I have issues

February 8th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

Incredible Hercules 116-120
PS238 0-5
Locke & Key 1-6
Captain America 37-42

Secret Invasion is kind of incidental to the events in the Incredible Hercules, almost a device to tell the larger story and to be honest, I think it suffers for it. From what I’ve heard, Secret Invasion hasn’t been nearly as interesting as the crossovers to it, but Hercules would’ve been better off if they found some other reason to get the God Squad together than to go after the Skrull deities. It’s kind of a neat idea for a team book, and there could be a lot more stories there, a la Fables. I like the historical cutaways, which a lot of comics seem to be doing these days. What was Hercules doing between the classical Greek era and the modern comics era? Amadeus Cho is a fun character, but he’s starting to get annoying. Having him be a little more fallible made him more interesting in this story.

Locke & Key was fascinatingly creepy. I’ve been left hanging after this first collection, and I want to know more. I want to know what the key is that Bode found. Hill is going to give his dad a real run for his money. I’ve complained in the past about decompressed storytelling, and whole issues where absolutely nothing happens. This series, while I read it in the trade, I think I would actually enjoy more in single issues, as each issue builds a bit more, moves the creepiness forward a bit. The art fits the otherworldliness of the story, the artist doing a great job at drawing sinister, scary and in the case of Sam, just a little bit dead inside. I desperately want to know where this is going to go.

Captain America is dead. Long live Captain America! But which one? Brubaker is going into the history of the character, by bringing back the 1950s Cap, who altered his appearance to look like Steve Rogers. At the end of this trade, he vanishes, but is clearly going to come back to battle Captain “Bucky” America again. Part of this story was set in Minneapolis, at a political rally. Nothing in the background was completely recognizable as downtown, but you could see skyways. I don’t think we have any news reporters who wear shirts that show their navels, though. Are there any serious female reporters that would wear a bare midriff shirt while on air?

Tune into the the next podcast to hear our discussion of PS238!

I have issues

February 4th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

Last Defenders 3-6
Teen Titans 13-15
Echo 1-6
Wolverine: Logan 1-3

The Last Defenders got a lot better as it went on. I liked how Nighthawk tried different line-ups until he found one that worked, even if it didn’t include him. I can see this continuing on as a series, with a team on the run from the authorities, kind of an A-Team, always one step ahead. It had a bit of a NextWave vibe to it, with a little bit of Exiles thrown in. It really feels like a prelude to something else, with Yandroth playing a bigger role down the road.

Going on with team books, I’m still catching up with the 2003 series of Teen Titans. We’re running up to Infinite Crisis in a couple of trades, which is where I started reading the series regularly. A few of the subplots allude to the upcoming events; the main story in this three-issue arc covers Gar Logan’s temporary cure of his green hue, but at the loss of his animal powers, of course. Entertaining, but to be honest, I was more interested in the asides with Wonder Girl, Superboy and Tim Drake (formerly Robin–this is where Spoiler took over, just prior to War Games). How do you stop being a super-hero? The Loners touched on this with Julie Power trying to give up being Lightspeed (something I’d like to see more of–someone should write a Power Pack All Grown Up comic–maybe I should!) I should look for the Robin issues that tie-in here.

Terry Moore’s foray into the super-hero genre is good so far, but he seems to be taking his sweet time in getting anywhere. I’m not sure I could handle reading these in single issues–it was much more satisfying as a trade, although only sort of, because after six issues, it seems like we still haven’t really gone anywhere. The crazy homeless guy seems a bit of a stereo-type.

Brian K Vaughan wrote a sweet Logan story here. It’s short, it’s beautifully illustrated, and fits in well with the Wolverine: Origins series, although not officially a part of that. While Wolverine is far too overused as a character (I wonder what would happen if there was a year-long hiatus of using this character), I’m enjoying these little chapters in his life. It’s reminding me a lot of what’s going on with Iron Fist, where we get a window into the past, and the stories are very self-contained.

I have issues

February 2nd, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

Young X-Men 1-6
Cable 3-5
The Last Defenders 1-2
Gotham Underground 7-9

Young X-Men is a lot more of a continuation of New X-Men than I thought it would be. Including New Mutants #1 was pretty neat; it brought back memories for me. I wish I could still get the feeling I used to get when I was reading New Mutants as a young teenager, but then again, isn’t that true of everything you remember from your youth? Nostalgia includes the Greek word for pain. The bad guy is telegraphed so early on, I hope they didn’t think anyone would actually be fooled by the subterfuge. I did enjoy this a lot more than I thought I would, but then, it is Guggenheim doing the writing. Although I’m annoyed by most of the characters, and miss some of the ones from New X-Men that I liked. Anole, come back, all is forgiven!

Cable got better, but only slightly. Cannonball apparently had no trouble finding steroids in future. Honestly, Sam Guthrie, one of the lankiest characters ever created suddenly has not guns, but cannons? At least I’m not paying for it, other than the cost of getting to the library. I have a feeling the time travel chase scenes will get old. Cable should’ve brought Sophie with him. Of course, it would’ve been a little too much of Voyagers crossed with Doctor Who at that point. Oh, with huge nonsensical guns.

I don’t know much about the history of the Defenders, just knowing some of the team line-ups. I don’t think I’ve read any of the original series, and much like the Champions, it’s always seemed like a way for Marvel to cash in on the success of the Avengers and the relaunched X-Men. At what point did the X-Men become an actual hit? I know that it was on the verge of cancellation in the ’60s, with a long run being reprints. But the Defenders has always seemed like a “why bother” team. Maybe it’s a way that Marvel retains copyright on certain characters by bringing them out, dusting them off for awhile. These first two issues are an awful lot of set-up, so far. I can feel Giffen’s touch, although not as much as when he and deMatteis wrote their other Defenders story earlier in the “bwah-ha-ha” vein. A few nods to Civil War, the Initiative, and even Secret Invasion, with Blazing Skull correcting Nighthawk about his moniker. I’m interested in Nighthawk’s history, so that might be a reason to go back and read some original Defenders stories. Was he one of Marvel’s answers to Batman?

Speaking of Batman, I wonder if anyone is able to tie together into a cohesive continuity all of the stuff going on in DC right now. Where exactly does Gotham Underground fit in to Batman RIP and Final Crisis? I finished this trade off last night, and it seemed mostly to be a rehash of War Games, as well as a way to reintroduce Spoiler. I love Batman’s rogues gallery, and would like to see more Penguin and Riddler–the Joker’s so over done now. But I’d like to see them given some respect again. Maybe a little less reinvention and bit more back to basics.

I have issues

January 31st, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

JLA 70-71
Scalped 12-18
Spider-Man: Swing Shift
PVP (this week)

I’m halfway through The Obsidian Age arc, finishing off the first trade just in time to return it to the library on the due date, and haven’t yet started the second trade, so I’m still not sure where it’ll end up. Our heroes are stuck in the past, and in the present, the alternate JLA is facing the press, in a scene very reminiscent of when Captain America introduces Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. There are questions about where the “real” JLA is, which the Atom fields like a pro, only stumbling when a question gets asked by the reporter with the most invested in the answer: Lois Lane. I love team books, even though you can get pretty tired reading them. You increase the power level exponentially by having all these characters team up, so you need to up the potential catastrophe. It actually gets a little farcical. How does anyone actually get anything accomplished when disaster strikes constantly, the type of disaster that can only be averted by the JLA? And that’s what this new JLA is facing: crisis-level disasters. One of the things I love about team books is the changing roster of the team. I miss the covers with the faces bordering the artwork, showing the rollcall, especially when it was a team-up of teams.

One of the best series to come from Vertigo in a long time is Jason Aaron’s Scalped. Part film noir, part hard-boiled detective story, part police procedural, Scalped continuously amazes me issue after issue. I’ve been reading it in trades, the third trade being the most current. Vertigo has been doing a good job of keeping the trades of their series coming out at a good clip, nearly keeping pace with the single issue releases. Six or seven issues come out and bang, a trade is on the shelves by the time the next issue is released. Along with the recently cancelled Exterminators, Scalped is the cream of Vertigo’s crop–which probably means it’s the next to get the axe. I wonder if we’ll see it get translated to another media soon; I can see it picked up by Showtime or HBO for a series.

I read Spider-Man: Swing Shift, the Free Comic Book Day issue from nearly two years ago. It was the first part of the first trade of Brand New Day, acting as a lead-in to the new Spider-Man continuity. Dan Slott’s stories of Brand New Day are probably my least favourite, as they seem to be a rehash of what he did with She-Hulk, particularly with the love triangles. I’d heard lots of complaints about Swing Shift. I’m not sure what there was to complain about, because there’s hardly anything there. I guess it really is a case of you get what you pay for. But, in essence, it fulfilled its mission; it introduced us to what Brand New Day was going to be.

I caught up on this week’s PVP, mostly one off strips after the arc with Brent meeting the 10th Doctor. Enjoyable as always, although Brent’s new chin is taking some getting used to. It’s interesting to look at the changes in the characters over the years, and how the designs have evolved. The chin is almost a minor change in comparison, but until I get used to it, I’m going to stumble a few times when reading the new strips.

Obama gets it. Nobody understands us.

January 30th, 2009 by jason

I’ve totally had days like this. Haven’t you?

I have issues

January 30th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:
JLA #55-69

Most of the comics I read come from the library, which really is an incredible resource for trades and even single issues.  I champion the library whenever I get the chance, showing people proudly that the trade paperback I’m reading came from one.  “Libraries carry comic books?” they say, incredulously.  “Why, yes!” I reply, telling them that I usually have fifteen or twenty checked out at any given time.  Sometimes, however, that comes back to bite me on the ass, like when I have to plow through three JLA trades in two nights because they’re coming due in the next couple of days, and I’m unable to renew them, because someone else has one of them on reserve.  I grit my teeth, though, and look at the bright side: people are looking for comics at the library, and requesting them.  So while I usually like to read several different series, usually from different companies, sometimes I get quite a long stretch of a single title all at once.

This run of JLA finished out Mark Waid’s time with the team, followed by an issues by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, and now I’m well into Joe Kelly’s run.  Grant Morrison is definitely a tough act to follow.  Waid is decent, following up on Batman’s betrayal, with a storyline developed from a single line of dialogue, with half the league split from their own alter egos, playing off of what seems to be a throwaway line of dialogue.  And another line of dialogue in this storyline becomes the basis for the next one, the return of the white martians.  Waid’s entire run is very tight, practically interwoven together.  Dixon and Beatty’s issue is part of the Joker’s Last Laugh crossover.  I picked up that trade recently from the library, expecting a standalone Joker story, not realizing that it crossed into practically every title in the DCU.  Interestingly, the asterisks had been left in letting me know where I could find some of the other stories that crossed into Last Laugh.  Something which the JLA trades, and indeed most comic trades don’t seem to do.  I’ve always thought this a little weird, as it would be a great promotional tool to get people to buy other trades.  Is it that they figure people will be frustrated at not having the referenced comics immediately at their disposal?  These are comics!  For years, the asterisk was the starting point of a treasure hunt which had us wading through longboxes at comic shops and conventions, and staring longingly at backissues protected by mylar pinned up on the shop walls.  The lack of notes is particularly annoying during Kelly’s run, which ran during DC’s Our World at War crossover.  Events are mentioned about Wonder Woman not being a princess any more, Aquaman vanishing, and for some reason, the artist draws Superman’s emblem as red on black, rather than red on yellow.  But there are no notes telling you where you could read more about what happened.  Again, I feel a little hypocritical complaining about this, especially when I have all of the internet at my disposal to do research, but would it hurt to have an asterisk or some sort of annotation going on?  If you’ve never read it, the Annotated Crisis on Infinite Earths is a joy.  Such scholarship went into that, noting just about every character in every one of George Perez’s drawings.  Kudos to that effort, as well as the online annotations for just about everything Grant Morrison has ever written.

All of that said, I’m mostly enjoying Kelly’s run.  He brings up some interesting themes, such as Wonder Woman’s dependence on her lasso as a source of truth, and what happens when she vehemently disagrees with that truth.  I’m in the middle of The Obsidian Age arc, featuring the Justice League of 3000 years ago.  Here, he’s turning the moral table on the JLA, it appears, making them face what role they have in a completely foreign morality.  It seems a lot like a prelude to Justice League Elite, which he wrote a few years later, again drawn by Doug Mahnke, the artist on these JLA issues.  I wasn’t a big fan of Mahnke in JLE, and I’m still a little disturbed by his proportions and style here.  He does a good job at making people look unhealthy, and he seems a little obsessed with bugs and veins.  From the notes section of The Obsisdian Age, I discovered that Mahnke is from Minnesota.  I wonder if I’ve seen him at any of the conventions around here.

I have issues

January 27th, 2009 by jason

Comics read since last time:

X-Force 1-6 (new series)
Cable 1-2 (new series)
She-Hulk 26-30
X-Factor 30-32 and The Quick and the Dead
JLA 51-54

I have to start off by saying that I’ve never really liked Cable. Not now and not when he led X-Force. Not drawn by Ariel Olivetti and definitely not drawn by Rob Liefeld. I’m also not a huge fan of X-Force, coincidentally most identified with Rob Liefeld. I can’t say that what I’m currently reading has given me any great joy either. Both of the runs I’m reading now are part of the X-Men: Divided We Stand non-crossover. I’m actually being something of a hypocrite, in that I’m only reading them (in trades from the library) because X-Factor crosses into Secret Invasion and since the X-Factor trade I just finished is also part of Divided We Stand, I’ll read the rest of the related series. I say I’m a hypocrite, because when people say that they don’t want to read this series, or this crossover or comics from this company, because there’s too much background, or too much continuity, or they don’t want to have to know the past 50 years of comics, I gently scoff. And now, before diving headlong into Secret Invasion, I’m reading series I have no interest in, just to keep up with what’s going on. That’s kind of what I’m doing with She-Hulk, as well, although I’m more likely to have an interest in continuing on reading the Jade Giantess, afterwards.

Peter David is writing both She-Hulk and X-Factor (maybe he likes hyphens).The two series have a similar theme, in that they both cross into the crime genre: X-Factor is a detective agency, and She-Hulk along with her partner Jazinda (a skrull who currently doesn’t seem to be involved with the invasion) are bounty hunters. I’m definitely enjoying X-Factor more, though, than the “buddy film” adventures that She-Hulk is having.  It’s almost like David is having a better time writing these characters, than revisiting Gammaville.

Coincidentally, I also finished off a JLA trade: Divided We Fall.  As the X titles are all about what happens when Cyclops decides the X-Men are no more, this chapter of JLA is about what happens when DC’s greatest team has an irrepairable rift.  While the X-Men experience their disillusionment in the destruction of both the school and the near-fatal shooting of Professor X, the JLA’s wounds come from within, from Batman’s secret files on the rest of the heroes, specifically how to take them out.  All of that happened in the previous arc, where a villain gains knowledge of these vulnerabilities.  Now, the JLA has to decide whether they’re going to be able to function any more without their inherent trust.  Going back and reading all of this, after having read Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and everything else that’s come after it, I can see how much has really been building for the past decade in DC.  This is a good example of what I was talking about.  I didn’t have to have read the JLA to enjoy the later stories, and going back now, it show just how much more of a tapestry everything is.  The threads have been there, and my noticing them now, makes it a much richer design.

I have issues

January 25th, 2009 by jason

I read comics every day. I don’t think a single day goes by any more where I don’t read at least one, and usually, I read a trade’s worth. After all, that seems to be how most comics are packaged these days. While these won’t be complete reviews, I’m going to attempt to share my thoughts on what I read each day. If something I read warrants it, I’ll go into it more thoroughly.

So far I haven’t read much of Secret Invasion, although on the way back from Wizard World Chicago I caught up with The Initiative. Today, I started with an online checklist I found, reading Mighty Avengers #13, New Avengers #40, and Avengers: The Initiative #14. I know I’m a bit behind the times with these, but I wasn’t really interested in starting this until stuff started to be available in trade, or I was able to borrow them from a friend en masse. The stuff I’ve heard so far makes it seem that Secret Invasion itself will be much better read in one sitting…or at least not having to wait month by month.

So far, we just have the paranoia setting in, with no one knowing who is a skrull, except for 3-D Man. It’s kind of awesome how this character is getting a prominent role. I admit that I love it when minor characters are brought to the fore, like in Agents of Atlas and Shadowpact. Reading them in bunches like this, the art and writing tend to give me a bit whiplash, with such different styles as Bendis and Slott, Maleev, Gage, and Cheung.

I started the X-Factor: The Only Game in Town trade, reading issues 28 and 29, and finished off the latest collection of Legion of Super-Heroes, featuring the return of Jim Shooter. Quite a contrast in these two series, X-Factor keeping with the hard-boiled style started in the initial Madrox mini-series, and Legion spanning the galaxy with plenty of giant monsters and sci-fi action. Peter David is a bit more enjoyable to read than Jim Shooter right now, although I admit to a bit of bias against Shooter and his anti-gay edict when he was Editor in Chief of Marvel. I notice that Shooter lays it on a bit thick with Invisible Kid’s attraction to Giselle. I wonder if that has anything to do with the gay relationship between Lyle and Chemical King, and then later with Brainiac 5, in various iterations of the title. I am happy that Shooter ended the Lightning Lad being over his head in charge scenario; it was getting pretty tiresome and repetitive, and a little bit trite that he didn’t have any sort of assistant, computerized or otherwise. Come to think of it, both Lightning Lad and Madrox were feeling the burdens of leadership in these issues, but on different scales. Both of their teams are going up in flames, they both feel like things are out of their control, but they’re being blamed for it all. I’m also happy to see the return of Arcade. I feel I should’ve recognized his touch earlier, but I was surprised to see him appear when I turned the page. The cane is a bit Riddler-esque, but I love his Space Invaders socks. Nice touch with the Vote Saxon stickers as well. Everyone really does watch Doctor Who now, don’t they?

The Highwaymen

January 1st, 2009 by jason

Written by Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, art by Lee Garbett

An entertaining action comic, published by DC under the WildStorm imprint, The Highwaymen of the title are secret agents of some sort.  Well, ex-secret agents, now mostly over the hill, but with one more adventure left behind by a former president (now deceased).  As I said, the comic is entertaining, and a quick read, but you do get the feeling that it was written not so much as an homage to action or buddy films, like Lethal Weapon, as something that the creators could sell to Hollywood.  This is Danny “I’m too old for this shit” Glover, paired with Michael Caine as impossible to kill agents, on the run from the sinister head of a government organization, trying to protect and deliver a weapon of mass destruction to the proper authorities.  Did I mention that this weapon of mass destruction is in the shape of a hot college girl?  Put whichever starlet of the year in that role, and you have a summer blockbuster, full of car chases, car crashes, and car explosions.  Again, I want to say that I didn’t dislike this comic, and in fact, it was fun to read, but the sales pitch was pretty blatant.  The five issue series came out in 2007, and I just read the trade from the library.  I can’t imagine that it would work as well in single issue format, since it is, essentially, an action movie.  Reading one issue, having a cliffhanger and waiting for another month would not have worked for me.

Comics’ little joys

December 28th, 2008 by jason

It’s little things like this that just make me grin when I read comics:

In The Punisher presents: Barracuda #2 (written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Goran Parlov), there’s a throwaway line when Barracuda sees a former fellow inmate on a first class flight to a banana republic.  Digby, the former inmate who is shaking in his boots at seeing Barracuda confesses that he now works for Hart Consolidated, who sent him on the trip to look into someone’s financials.  Barracuda says that Hart’s one of the biggest outfits in the country, why would they hire a fraud like Digby?

Anyone know what Hart Consolidated is a reference to?  And the name Digby?

I Luv Halloween

December 24th, 2008 by jason

Keith Giffen is a truly disturbed individual.  This is not news.  He’s the guy who created Lobo, Ambush Bug, and reinvented the Justice League, putting Blue Beetle and Booster Gold together.  Bwah Ha Ha and all that.  In more recent years, he headed up the Annihilation series for Marvel.

What shows Giffen to completely off his rocker is a series for TokyoPop called I Luv Halloween, with art by Benjamin Roman.  All three volumes of this series have been put together in a nice hardcover called the Ultimate Twisted Edition.  Which is an apt description.  This is one of the most twisted comics I’ve ever read.  The comics are about four friends who go out trick or treating, each volume starting out the same way.  Finch, our hero, puts on his mask and prepares to leave.  You can see that Finch is the kind of boy who likes to take apart things.  Toys.  Small animals.  But compared to his little sister, he’s the tame one.  Your first image of Moochie is of her dressed as the tooth fairy, pulling out the tooth of a corpse seated at the dinner table.  One can only assume that this corpse is that of their mother.  This is quite possibly the least macabre thing that Moochie does for the rest of the 496 pages.  I Luv Halloween is the cartoon version of a Rob Zombie movie.  Moochie would smile up at Leatherface with her angelic blond face, and then slice his kneecaps off.  She would convince Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers to hitchhike to Canada to escape her, only to find her waiting at the border, where she’d cheerfully stab them in the eyeholes of their respective masks.  This kid would turn Hannibal Lector into a vegetarian, and give Freddy his own worst nightmares.  In fact, I’d like to see a Moochie vs everybody comic.

I Luv Halloween is full of murder, mayhem, and will quite probably cause mental instability in anyone who reads it.  In short, I loved it.  The writing is hysterical, in both definitions of the word.  Even though this is put out by TokyoPop, the art is not in the manga style.  It is very cartoon-like, which works well for this series.

Kirkman takes over the universe

November 20th, 2008 by jason

I just finished the latest trade of Invincible, the first trade of The Astounding Wolf-Man, and I’ll picking up the first trade of Capes tonight at the library.  How prolific is this man?  How many continuing series is he going to write?  Would Image fold completely if he was in a plane crash?  Looking at the back page, listing all the available trades, you could go broke just keeping up with his output alone.

Both trades were fun, and the stories keep growing in complexity, bringing in plot twists on the last page.  Now I have to decide whether or not to wait for the next trade, or try to find the single issues.  If I decide to catch up with the Walking Dead (should be easy, they’re a slow-moving bunch), I have friends whose copies I’d be able to read.  I think they also have singles for Invincible, but I don’t think they decided to buy AWM.  I didn’t think I would get into the latter, but the story picked up, and I think there’s going to be a crossover with Invincible soon.

Windy City Comicon

November 5th, 2008 by jason

The podcasters at Around Comics (see their link over on the right) decided that they were tired of traipsing all the way out to Rosemont for Wizard World, so they figured, “Hey gang! Let’s put on a show!” Like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, they threw caution to the wind and did it. And how! 1500 people attended the show, at five bucks a pop.  Things were definitely popping, too.  It reminded me a lot of the local MNCBA conventions we have here, with a bit more focus on the writers and artists.  The layout of the convention kept the focus on the creators, giving them center stage, so to speak.  Unlike many other conventions of this type, the vendors were around the perimeter, with the creators right in front of you as you walked in, and taking up the front center part of the gymnasium where the convention was held.  There was also some gaming available near the back of the gym, with HeroClix tournaments taking place.

And speaking of Judy Garland, one of the things that I enjoyed in particular about the Windy City Comicon was the venue.  The convention was held at the Center on Halsted, a GLBT community center in Chicago’s Boystown area.  According to the organizers, the space was chosen based on size, cost and proximity.  Me, I just enjoyed the fact that it was in Boystown and afterwards, it was so easy to hit the bars.  Also, most conventions have food options that resemble what you might find at a high school cafeteria with prices comparable to a major league sporting event.  The Center on Halsted is connected to a fully stocked Whole Foods.  Quite possibly the best convention sustenance I’ve ever experienced.

It looks like the organizers are going to give it a go next year, and I look forward to making this a reason for an annual trip to Chicago.

Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. (and annotations)

October 22nd, 2008 by jason

I’ve finally caught up on the main Final Crisis books, which shouldn’t have been hard since there are only three out right now, as well as Batman R.I.P., which is still in progress as well. Ah, Grant Morrison. You kooky, wacky Grant Morrison. I love reading you, I really do. But man, I still think you’re leaving out some of the words. Maybe some of the word balloons. Perhaps even some panels or even pages. Grant, when you read the comic, are there extra panels in your mind that we don’t see? Do you write a page, keep a page in your head, and then write another page? I mean, I understand what’s going on–for the most part–but it just seems like the story jumps a few times. Jumps like Batman jumping from rooftop to rooftop. And sometimes those jumps are really long jumps, which Batman is able to clear a lot better than I am.

Grant Morrison gets spoken about on a lot of podcasts, he gets a lot of press, and feelings about him run pretty strong. There are videos of him, including one of him speaking at Disinfocon, available to view on YouTube. I think the man is a great writer, but I have to be honest. Sometimes I’m unsure about his “storytelling” ability. I also think there’s a bit of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” going on with him. I really do think that there are a lot of people who have a difficult time following Morrison’s writing, but are afraid of admitting it for fear that they’ll be considered dumb, or at the very least, not discerning readers. And some of his stuff is easier to follow than other things. His run on X-Men seemed a bit more straight forward. I haven’t read his Animal Man or Doom Patrol in years, but I know he got a bit out there in those titles.

For Final Crisis and Batman RIP, we now live in the age of the Internet, and fortunately we have resources. Douglas Wolk and Gary Greenwood, who both have sites up annotating Final Crisis, and Timothy Callahan, who is annotating Batman RIP, do a lot of the legwork for us. All three sites go page by page and panel by panel, noting who characters are, what their historical significance is, what their relevance is to the current plotline. Readers guides for these somewhat convoluted stories, if you will. These guys have all gone above and beyond, helping us, the gentle reader, keep from pulling our hair out trying to keep track of everything, especially through delays in releases. Maybe that’s Grant’s diabolical plan–to induce baldness among comics readers around the world, and thus make his audience over in his own image. One of these days, someone is going to collect all of these annotations together into a comprehensive tome: The Annotated Grant Morrison. It’ll be a bestseller.

Kingwood Himself

October 8th, 2008 by jason

Kingwood Himself, by Reynold Kissling

Delightfully twisted, this comic reminded me a lot of the more surreal cartoons and kid shows I watched growing up.  The main character, Emily, is very reminiscent of Little Lulu, going on trips to cities in the clouds  and undersea kingdoms.  There’s also a touch of Krofft thrown in, as I expect HR Pufnstuf to come around the corner with Jimmy and his Golden Flute in tow.

I love the solidity of the art, the characters looking like you could reach in and pick them up by their round heads.  The detail and design in the cul-de-sac, and of the various houses makes me want to try to find my way there; it could be in the wooded grove just a block over it seems like.  Guudo’s room is like the fantasies you have of shrinking down and swimming in the fishtank, with the miniature castle and diver for company.

Reynold put this together as a nice looking comic as well.  The front and back cover feature full-page color images from what look like Emily’s continuing visits to the cul-de-sac, and the inside-cover features thumbnail drawings of several of the characters.  There’s a nice little Easter Egg when you go to his website and view Kingwood Himself online:  the cover image extends further then in the hard copy.  While you’re there, check out the rest of his comics.  I particularly like Commute.

The Slide

October 1st, 2008 by jason

Random minicomic from Lutefisk Sushi Volume C (2008)

A painful childhood experience given life in drawing, The Slide, by Jesse Haller, features a young boy who is in over his head, literally.  I remember a number of similar events from my own past, although for me, it was the tornado slide that gave me a fright.  I remember the line of kids behind me, and how far down it looked.  The stricken look on the child’s face is very believable, and I feel that I probably shared his expression.

A few notable things: the first page sets up the location and season, and the slide in the title features prominently, in sort of a cross between nostalgia and loneliness.  There are a lot of little things that I caught as I read through it several times, like the detail in the background houses, and the playground equipment.  The view from the top of the slide, and then again from the bottom.  Toby’s sleeve from his hand-me-down flannel, which won’t stay tucked.  The way Toby is overwhelmed by the word balloons, and in particular the word balloon in the shape of the word GO.  His buttcrack revealed to further his embarrassment after he reaches the bottom.  And then the expression on his face in the last panel…I have to admit, I’m having a little trouble figuring this one out.  There’s something up with his mouth, maybe he got a bloody lip by sliding down on his face.  Could just be dirt.

A short, simple comic, but of such a strong shared memory.

’80s relaunches

September 29th, 2008 by jason

Because my library has them in trade, I started reading the 1980s relaunches of Superman and Wonder Woman.  The Superman trades collect John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series in Volume 1, and in subsequent volumes include his ongoing Superman and Action comics, along with Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway’s Adventures of Superman, along with some cross-overs with Legion of Super-Heroes and Booster Gold along the way.  The Wonder Woman collections are from the George Perez and Len Wein reintroduction of Diana to Man’s World.  Our heroes re-meet their iconic villains for the first time in these post-Crisis on Infinite Earth stories, which is a little weird, particularly now when you have continuity being turned end over end, and three different sets of Legions meeting each other.  But they’re so much fun to read, and particularly fun to look at how Byrne, Ordway and Perez are drawing everything.  Their clothes, their hair, their computers, everything is so very ’80s.  Is that Lois Lane or a slimmer version of Brigitte Nielson?

The stories seem a little quaint after so many years of darkness that we’ve been seeing recently.  There seems to be less risk, even though these take place before death’s revolving door.  Byrne even makes a point of telling everyone that all these super-villain attacks in downtown Metropolis are taking place on Sunday when no one is any of the office buildings being smashed.  How considerate of the bad guys.  There are some casualties, in the form of the recently introduced minor characters.  But you really don’t feel anything really bad is going to happen to our heroes any time soon.

There is something about these relaunches that makes me wonder, though:  Superman and Wonder Woman got restarted, but what about the third member of the Trinity?  Why didn’t Batman get reset at the time?  Were his books just selling that much more?  Was there some reset that I’m just not remembering?

Mighty Avengers #9

September 28th, 2008 by jason

I have the second Mighty Avengers collection checked out from the library, and I finished it this morning.  Of particular interest to me is issue 9, where the team invades Latveria to arrest Doom for turning most of Manhattan into Venom symbiotes.

What I found somewhat fascinating about this issue is that out of 24 pages (counting the cover), half of the pages consist of little more than a single large drawing.  Six of the pages are double-spreads of the Avengers battling Doombots.  A few others have small ancillary panels, but again, the primary art is one large drawing.  The drawings are quite detailed.  Lots of action is occuring in them.  But without a doubt, this is the “blockbuster action flick” of comics recently.  It’s like the last hour of Transformers.  Talk about your decompressed storytelling!  Six pages in a row of just enormous battle scenes.  It’s like a pin-up magazine rather than a comic.  I really wonder what people who plopped down three bucks for this thought, especially knowing that they would then have to wait another month to get the next issue.  Having got it from the library, I feel like I got the better end of the deal.

I haven’t looked up any other reviews of the comic yet, or any kind of response from Bendis on the message boards, but just looking at this comic as a single entity, you get the feeling that he may have been a little overworked at the time, and told Bagley to fill up some pages with fighting.

I am enjoying what I’m reading of Mighty Avengers so far, except I keep waiting for someone to say “Bwah ha ha!”  Iron Man’s repartee with Doom in the next issue is hugely reminiscent of the dialogue from the ’80s Justice League series, which is not a bad thing.  Super-hero comics could definitely use a bit more humour these days, in my opinion.

All Small

September 25th, 2008 by jason

Random minicomic from Lutefisk Sushi Volume C (2008)

Okay, this one wasn’t all that random.  The first comic I pulled out had risen flesh-eating dead in it, so clearly I couldn’t review that one.  The second one, I just wasn’t feeling.  So this was the third pull.  Or maybe fourth.  Anyway, I loved it.  It appears to reprint webcomics from David Steinlicht’s All Small website, most of which are one or two page commentaries on life called “On My High Horse”.  The balding, bespectacled narrator of these wry observations covers topics like logo design and ironic packaging.  I particularly liked his dissection of the Superman symbol.

Steinlicht self-compares his art to Chris Ware, among others, what with it’s simple geometry and clean lines.  I have to admit, though, that I’m often left cold by Ware’s work, whereas I felt a much stronger attachment to our High Horse commentator.

Steinlicht currently works for the Pioneer Press doing a comic called “In This Corner”, along with other art chores for the daily (I found a link on the paper’s website about golf courses, for which he drew hole diagrams).  The comic looks to be a similar commentary style, but a little on the softer side than his webcomic, much as you’d expect to find in the Sunday supplement.  He also maintains a blog, in which I really like this entry.

Shadowline webcomics

September 24th, 2008 by jason

I was perusing various comics fora tonight, and saw a post about Shadowline getting into digital comics, and after a bit of searching discovered that they have a series of webcomics linked through their website now.  There’s a press release on the main page which lists the various creators and titles signed with them, but it makes it sound a bit like some of the comics have been online for awhile, they’re just now moving over to the Shadowline website.  I know I heard about Chicago 1968 at Wizard World Chicago this year, and it’s being appearing weekly since then.  And oddly, aside from a non-clickable URL in the press release, the only link to the webcomics section is a tiny link at the bottom right-hand side of the page.

I like the interface more than either Zuda or Marvel Digital Comics.  They’ve eschewed a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles that some of the others have for easier navigation, and really high quality images.  Some of the comics have only a few pages up so far, like Action Ohio with six, and Hannibal Goes to Rome with eight, while a couple of others give you a bit more to read.  Brat-halla is up to sixty so far.  Of course, a good webcomics junky is going to plow through all of them in an afternoon, but it looks like they plan to add some more titles regularly.