Archive for the ‘TPBs/graphic novels’ Category

Spiderman: Reign

July 27th, 2008 by Susie

I have been meaning to talk about about this one for a while.  I picked it up at a $5 trades table at Wizard World.  I recognized it a s something I had been intrigued by when it first came out, but not enough to buy. I did not quite remember what is was about.  Looking it over I surmised that it was the Dark Wallcrawler Returns.  After reading it, I was not wrong.  It has an awful lot in common with Frank Miller’s classic Batman tale.  It takes place in a dark possible future where an aged and haunted Spiderman returns from a long absence.  It even features a spunky young girl leading an army of children.  The scratchy art, and color pallet is similar as well.  However all that does is for me is to underscore some fundamental differences between the characters.  Even a scarred and suicidal  Peter parker is saner than Batman.  Because in the suit or out Peter is always Peter.  Where as Batman is always Batman.  Not that I believe Bruce Wayne no longer exists inside the Bat, he just is deeply buried.  Peter is just under the mask, and he is always aware of how crazy his dual identity can be.  Perspective is not Batman’s strong suit.  This story is not as original as the Dark Knight Returns was, but is still a well told Spiderman story.  And certainly worth the five bucks.

Young Avengers: Sidekicks [TPB]

July 25th, 2008 by Stephanie


Young Avengers: Sidekicks by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung.

I wasn’t a reader of the Avengers, but I understand the basic makeup of their team– Iron Man, Thor, Captain America… So when, in Young Avengers, we meet a groups of teens who seemingly model themselves after the Avengers, well, it’s hard not to see it as a combination wish-fulfillment fantasy for a bunch of fanboys and a nod to the Golden Age while forging a new story.

Maybe it’s because I’m reading too many of similar-themed comics at the same time, but Young Avengers isn’t doing it for me. I suspect that’s because, frankly, I have no reason to care about the young superheroes, or the Avengers with whom they interact almost constantly from page 2 onward. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel that way if I were already an Avengers fangirl, but, well, I’m not.

Even with the introduction of smart, sassy, capable superheroines, I still can’t bring myself to think “yeah, these guys resonate!” They’ve laid down a mystery to solve, but even over the course of the trade volume, the mystery doesn’t grab my attention and make me want to follow up.

When put beside Runaways, there’s really no comparison, which is why I can’t imagine that the crossover could be any good. I may pick it up just to see, but it would be like slowing down on a country road to watch a train wreck.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Vol 1 & 2

July 23rd, 2008 by Martin

I really thought I was going to think this was just stupid. I’m one of those people who laughed once at real ultimate power, but then deemed it ridiculous and stupid. Similarly, I have never even watched a single episode of ask a ninja. But while, ok, yes Dr. McNinja started out as a webcomic, and the author Chris Hasting does admit to having started drawing Dr. McNinja over in the forums at Something Awful, Dr. McNinja actually transcends all of that internet idiocy. It’s actually quite funny, and while not drawn in a style that’s going to win any awards, the art doesn’t detract from the main focus of the comic, which I would consider to be hilariously situational. I might have a hard time arguing you’ll like it even if you’ve never watched a kung fu movie in your life, and honestly it’s probably not as enjoyable if you don’t enjoy a mindless action movie now and then, but there is a lot more than sophomoric humor here!

For instance, one of the main stories in this first TPB is about Dr. McNinja returning home (to the cave he was raised in) where his family of ninjas are all a bit disappointed that he’s a doctor. His mother leaves him pamphlets for what she considers to be more acceptable jobs where he can see them. Oh, my retelling really isn’t doing the story justice. Just go over and read the page I’m talking about. Then, after you’ve chuckled a bit, go back to the archive, and start reading at the beginning, with Dr. McNinja Vs. McDonalds, (which didn’t even appear in that first TPB, perhaps due to fear of legal repercussion).

It’s really funny stuff, and you can tell that a lot of thought went into these comics. I actually poured through the second TPB, Surgical Strike yesterday on a break at work, so I can attest that they’re fast and compelling reading material. Plus, who wouldn’t enjoy a story about banditos who ride velociraptors chasing after a guy they know only from a photo of his abdomen posted to myspace? C’mon, seriously.

Superman: Red Son

July 22nd, 2008 by Martin

Originally a three-issue miniseries, this TPB was a bit more dark and foreboding than what I normally think of as a Superman comic.

The premise is simple: let’s assume Superman’s cradle/spaceship landed in Russia rather than the U.S.A., and that he was raised on a Russian farming commune. The concept that he would also embrace and adopt the principals of communism is not terribly difficult to accept. After all, it doesn’t seem like that far a leap from saving humanity to giving everyone basic human needs and treating everyone as equals. But, like communism, the implementation doesn’t quite match up with the theory, and in the end of this book, Superman’s ideals are twisted and corrupted.

Read on for more analysis and discussion, along with some pretty major spoilers. (more…)

Bomb Queen: The Divine Comedy #3 & TPB #1

July 21st, 2008 by Martin

I picked up the new Bomb Queen (issue #3 of 6) last week, having been pretty well sucked in by the first two issues in the recent series, and I have to admit that I am sort of grudgingly liking it for reasons other than the T&A, (which is certainly present, and more realistically why I like it). Normally I don’t really enjoy when the bad guys are the focus of a story, but for some reason when you dress that bad guy up in next to nothing and make sure it gets ripped off of her every once in a while… well, lets just say it changes the tone quite a bit.

Bomb Queen is essentially a really hot female super-villian who runs her own town somewhere in middle america. Apparently the authorities (ie, federal and state government) are willing to let this one town be governed by a supervillian because… it’s good for profits or something. Essentially Bomb Queen has a puppet Mayor who does whatever she asks, and she creates zones of the city that are lawless, and where the police can’t actually charge you for committing a crime. It sounds horrific, and honestly is even more horrific in the comic (rape and pedophilia are both referenced relatively frequently, if not, thankfully, shown), but it’s all done in a relatively humorous style that glosses over the horror and focuses on the hyper-sexualized Bomb Queen herself.

To be honest, Bomb Queen is a completely guilty pleasure. So much so that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I picked up the first four TPBs of Bomb Queen at Wizard World a few weekends ago. So after reading the latest individual issue, I went ahead and read the first TPB, Bomb Queen: Woman of Mass Destruction. In it, we are introduced to Bomb Queen, given a bit of back story, and then we get to the guts of the story where her reign is being threatened by a politician running for mayor against her puppet the incumbent. The whole thing is pretty ridiculous, and pretty much neither more or less than exactly what I expected. The TPB has some fun extras at the end of the book, including a B&W comic that all takes place from Bomb Queen’s cat’s perspective called Ashe’s Day Out.

Global Frequency, Vol. 1 & 2

July 12th, 2008 by Martin

A couple of observations: 1) These felt like multiple stories, rather than one cohesive thing, and 2) I liked the first TPB much better than the second. I think there were just more interesting ideas in it. Don’t get me wrong, they were both good, just the second not as much. I’ll admit that story where Miranda Zero gets abducted had me pretty tense though.

Basically, the Global Frequency is a benevolent organization that is called upon when circumstances are particularly dire. There are 1001 members located throughout the world, and they are called upon when their specialized talents are needed. Most of the members we see are special ops type people. People who kick ass in a special way. Anyway, there are some really interesting things that happen here, but again, no real plot to speak of.

Smax (2003)

July 4th, 2008 by Martin

So, I must reiterate that I really dug Top 10. It blew me away, and I couldn’t wait to get more of them. And while I didn’t dislike this, it didn’t grab me in the same way. I liked the art, and the story was ok, but it didn’t have the same hugeness factor. It didn’t feel like it was just brimming with possibility and promise the way Top 10 did.

In my post about Top 10 vol. 1 and 2, I suggested that I’d have to try and find Smax at Wizard World because it was the next in the series. I did end up finding it, in the artist alley, on Zander Cannon’s table. He was in the middle of a conversation, but I interrupted him long enough to buy a copy and have him sign it. He suggested I go tell Gene Ha how much I’d liked Top 10, and told me I really didn’t need to read the other parts of the series in order, as they were all pretty disconnected. He also said they’re starting up another Top 10 series that’s going to take place just after the first two TPBs. He seemed to think it was going to be out pretty soon. (I never did end up finding Gene Ha.)

Also in that last post, I sort of blamed Alan Moore for how great those first two TPBs were, giving the artwork second fiddle. I think I’d like to retract that statement now. It really was the art in Top 10 that made the comic, it was absolutely fantastic, and the writing was only just a cut above passable, balancing out somehow into a really great comic for me. Smax, on the other hand, had a very different artistic style. A lot more cartoony and, unfortunately, without all the crazy detail in every panel that really endeared me to Top 10. Don’t get me wrong, the art was totally good, and interesting, just not as interesting as Top 10.

It was also pretty different in terms of scope and scale, setting, everything, really. The character of Smax had always seemed so cynical in the first comic, just a loner, without any real social skills, but I guess he just never seemed dumb to me, and they really made him out to be a bit daft in this comic. Although maybe he wasn’t, and just had friends (relatives, really) who made him out to be. Either way, I didn’t particularly like that direction.

My only other quibble was the incest factor. For those who haven’t read the comic, I’ll try not to spoil it for you, but incest is suddenly acceptable by the end of the comic. I think it’s an interesting question, the concept of whether, maybe, in a fairy tale universe with different rules and all that, maybe incest would be acceptable. But in this comic, it was really just a minor sub-plot. I don’t really feel like the comic sold us on that concept. So it just ended up feeling jarring. Maybe that was the point, but in an otherwise pretty fluff-filled, humorous comic about a dragon slaying, it was a sub-plot that just felt out of place, and maybe didn’t need to be there. But then again, I’m not Alan Moore.

The Filth (2002)

July 1st, 2008 by Martin

I guess Wizard World wasn’t as good for posting as I’d imagined. I did read a ton of comics in the last three days, including The Filth, written by Grant Morrison, which I finished yesterday in the car ride home.

The Filth is as interesting as it is incomprehensible. I’d probably have to read this again to fully understand it. I was left wondering, at the end, whether a second read would clue me in to what had actually happened. Did 9th gear take you into another dimension, or just shrink you to the level of germs? Was “the Hand” actually Slade’s hand? Was any of that stuff even real? (And these are the “easy” questions.)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book (for me) was speculation about whether the end, in which microscopic man-made creatures (with the ability to cure cancer) take over the world, was optimistic, or pessimistic. They were set to turn everything into a land of flowers and happiness… is that a good thing?

This book felt a bit like a pornographic daydream, perhaps something I would have imagined in my teenage years. (Forcing the president to get breast implants and dance for his crack pipe? Sick and brilliant.) I probably wouldn’t recommend it unless you: a) love Grant Morrison so much that you’re wiling to invest some heavy time into reading and re-reading for full understanding, or b) you’re just in it for the journey, and not going to care that large swaths of pages seem entirely pointless by the end of the book.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Starman: Sins of the Father (1994)

May 28th, 2008 by Martin

I enjoyed this, the first Starman TPB penciled by Tony Harris who also penciled Ex Machina, but not nearly as much as I enjoy Ex Machina. I’ll admit it, that’s secretly what I was hoping for. There are certain parallels, you’ve got to admit. Both heroes don leather jackets, and have a sort of “bad boy” look about them; but in Ex Machina, there is this rich and undiscovered back-story. In starman, we have a long (and to me also undiscovered) back-story, but it seems anything but rich. In fact, it seems rather cliché and possibly quite lame. At first I was intrigued by Opal city, until I realized it was just like every other city with superheroes protecting it. Sure, they went on about how it had been cleaner than the cities Batman and Superman protect (thus landing it square in the DC universe), but I didn’t really buy it. After all, I’m guessing the old Starman had to fight someone back in the day. And of course we find out at least one person he fought in the course of reading this book.

We also get the whole “the good son who doesn’t live up to his father’s expectations because he doesn’t follow in his footsteps” story, with an added bonus “other son who tries to follow in those footsteps but ultimately fails because he has no originality” side story.

Worth reading, but only just. I might pick up more of the trade paperbacks, if only because I found the last story reprinted here to be ever-so-slightly more interesting than the rest.

Faker (2007)

May 26th, 2008 by Martin

Florence and I read this on an airplane.

It can be difficult to figure out what exactly this comic is about. Even after reading the back and pawing through the first few pages, I still had no idea. But the art, especially the cover art from individual issues, had me intrigued enough to pick this up when it came out. Let it suffice to say that it’s about some college kids who have some messed up stuff happen to them. About the first half of this trade paperback takes place around campus, and introduces you to the characters. Then the setting changes abruptly to a secret government-funded military-research facility. At first, I didn’t even know whether there would be science fiction elements to the story, but let me assure you that yes, there are!

There are also themes of childhood abuse; they are upsetting, but not sympathetic to the abuser. You have been warned.

The art and story were above average, and I’d count this as a first-rate comic. I don’t know if they’re planning on making more, but this first TPB really ties itself up, without a clear expectation for any continuation of the story. If anything, there are now a whole set of interesting (surviving) characters, some of whom may have been permanently changed by the events that transpire. It’s tough to say more without spoiling it, so go read it for yourself!

Noble Causes, Vol. 1: In Sickness and In Health (2002)

May 23rd, 2008 by Martin

This is a grim take on the superhero universe. After hearing Florence say she loved this series, and others agree (re: our last podcast #006), I was excited to read this and put it at the top of my stack. After having read it, I’m honestly not sure what I thought.

Oh, it was good, no doubt about that! Just opening to random pages, every story was gripping and totally engaging. Things happen in Noble Causes that definitely wouldn’t be seen between the covers of a regular comic book. I mean, heroes get beat up, often by other heroes (if you can even really call them that, we really only have their reputations to go on), there is lots of sex, including infidelity, murder, betrayal. Interestingly, the one big piece of connective tissue throughout the entire trade (It’s a ton of little stories with different plots.) is the Icarus plot.

The natural comparison is to Astro City, but this is way darker, and, oddly enough, feels a bit less realistic as a result to me. (Perhaps that is my own sunny outlook on life influencing my opinion.) Anyway, if you haven’t read this, I’d recommend it. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of it in the future. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet read Astro City, it’s better.

For those who aren’t familiar, Noble Causes is about the Noble family. They are your average superhero family, very wealthy, extremely powerful. But they are also totally fucked up and dysfunctional. Icarus is the robot built by the family’s genius father. The robot is sentient, and very jealous of all the children. I’ll just leave it at that.

I also read (before this first TPB, actually) Noble Causes: Extended Family (Vol. 2). It too is full of unconnected short stories, this time without so much as an imagined connective tissue. (At least, I didn’t notice one.) Didn’t matter though, since these stories were also totally engaging, and without my even knowing any of the character backstories! But all of these stories felt like backstories to me. Actually much of the first TPB also felt that way. I think it’s part of the style they’re written in… there are lots of flashbacks and jumping around in continuity is the norm.

I really only mentioned Extended Family because it was a bit darker and more extreme than the first TPB, and actually may have influenced the tone at which I read the first Comic. So it all ended up feeling really dark to me. Good, but very, very dark.

Southland Tales: The Prequel Saga

May 20th, 2008 by Martin

awesome artwork by Brett WeldeleThis comic was awesome for many reasons. First of all, it is an interesting story that ties into an interesting movie. Don’t confuse interesting with comprehensible though, because it’s not.

Florence and I rented and watched Southland Tales (the movie, directed by Richard Kelly, who wrote this comic) a couple of weeks ago from Amazon Unbox (direct to tivo, baby!), and watched it without great expectation. We’d both read mixed reviews of the movie, but I especially had secretly hoped that it would be one of those masterpieces that defies critical acclaim and rises above the popular mass market appeal. I would say that the movie failed in this regard, but that, having finished the comic book Prequel this afternoon/evening, the comic and movie together actually do make up a fantastic and epic story that, while not terribly genius, is completely worthy of the time investment required.

Since I more or less enjoyed this, I’m going to focus on the good aspects, figuring the bad aspects have probably been covered elsewhere. (You can just go read the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes, where Southland Tales has a 34% freshness rating.) I think what I enjoyed the most about both comic and movie is that they give you a lot to examine and think about. They both operate on many levels at once, which is, now that I think about it, also one of the things that I most liked Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly’s other “cult classic” film). Incidentally, I keep wanting to abbreviate Richard Kelly as R. Kelly, which is wrong on almost as many levels.

The comic is interjected with excerpts from a script to a movie called “The Power”, which was supposed to have been written by one of the main characters, Krista Now. Krista is a porn star, and (in the comic, at least), supposedly has telepathic powers that she attained while everyone else on board her airplane went insane. She wrote the script while under hypnosis, as a response to the book of revelations.

The plot is totally convoluted and involves time travel (or the fourth dimension); a futuristic company named Treer that claims to have developed a technology they call fluid karma that uses quantum entanglement to broadcast electricity; a stupidly violent liberal terrorist group that called itself Marxist, but really did not resemble any kind of thought-out political philosophy whatsoever; the 2008 political election; a recent history that includes two nuclear terrorist attacks in Texas; and a government agency called USIDent that forces you to register before using the internet. These are all related, and culminate in an end-of-the-world type scenario that I won’t go into details about so I don’t give anything away.

I also wanted to give credit to Brett Weldele, whose awesome artwork was really inspiring. This is not your average length trade paperback. This thing is pretty hefty with over 300 pages. Sure, some of those are straight-up text and script, but there is a fantastic amount of really interesting artwork here, and it never gets repetitive or dull, in fact it feels quite the opposite.

I will say that the movie makes a lot more sense in retrospect, so given a choice, I’d try and go with chronological order and read the comic book first. Oddly enough, however, I think the comic book made a lot more sense having already seen the movie, so it’s possible this is just one of those things that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate. Unfortunately, fully appreciate does not mean fully understand. It’s just not that kind of story. Understanding is secondary to experience, in this case.

Ultimate Iron Man, by Orson Scott Card (Vol. 1)

May 18th, 2008 by Martin

At first, this seemed like a win-win read for me. It’s Orson Scott Card, who I genuinely think is a good writer (although I have less and less respect for him as a person), and it’s in one of those parallel universes so I don’t really have to know anything about Iron Man cannon to enjoy it. I also (mistakenly) assumed that a relatively thick, hardcover collection would contain a whole story… but no, this ends with a cliffhanger.

I did really enjoy about the first half of the book, as I dug the blue armor stuff, and got into seeing the young Tony Stark interact with a young James Rhodes at prep school, but I couldn’t believe how dark the story got when Obadiah was introduced. Right off the bat he’s killing other children and plotting against Tony. It was relatively disturbing. So by the time I got to the end of the book, I was ready to be done with it. But then the story doesn’t end. I haven’t decided if I’ll read the rest of the series. I’ve seen Ultimate Iron Man II on the shelves, and I’ll admit if this had been better, I’d be tempted, but based my level of enjoyment here, I’ll probably hold out for library copies of the whole series.

Iron Man #47 – “The Birth of the Power!” (1968)

May 12th, 2008 by Martin

I’ll admit that the movie made me do it. I decided I wanted to read some Iron Man. I never have before, and I didn’t know if it made sense to start at the beginning, so I just decided to see what was at the library, and read some of that. There I found the collection The Many Armors of Iron Man, which starts with this comic, Iron Man #47.

Much to my surprise, when I cracked open the TPB, I discovered that this is the comic that tells the first part of the story from the movie! I looked for some sign that the trade was simply a movie tie in, but I didn’t see any. I’m sure I could probably dig online here and find some indication of whether this book was published before or after the script for the movie, but it probably doesn’t matter. It tells Iron Man’s “origin story”, so it’s a natural choice to base a movie after.

I quickly finished the comic, and now I’ll give you my impressions. (Note: SPOILERS AHEAD!)


The Pro

May 11th, 2008 by Martin

This comic took a simple premise and ran with it: what if a run-down street prostitute and mother suddenly got superpowers! I love anything that parodies the ridiculous superhero comic genre well, and this definitely did that. But surprisingly, it did more than just that. By the end of the comic, I felt like there was actually a meaning to all the swearing and gratuity. A statement about what it means to be a hero (and by extension what it means to be human, since all hero stories are really meant to be about everyone).

Florence thought: boobies. She likes ’em. She also notes that there was certainly a callback to Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex (by Larry Niven, which Susie just mentioned in her recent post). She thought the green lantern parody was amusing, but got old fast. I actually found that to be one of the more tactless parts of the book, but she rightly argues that it’s a satire of some of the poorer depictions of token black characters in comics. I guess I thought it was a bit more offensive than some of the other offensive parts of the book.

Perhaps the main thrust of the book was to poke holes in the righteous nature of superheroes (mainly DC characters), belittling the big story lines that don’t adequately capture the sordid day to day struggles that regular people want help with. The characters in this book only fight supervillians. It’s almost like Americans declaring themselves “world” champions at the superbowl, even though none of the other countries are participating. These superheros are really only fighting battles in a certain arena, yet declaring themselves the saviors of all humanity.

Entirely worth reading just for the scenes with “The Viewer” (aka “Voyeur”), who was a not so subtle take on the Monitor. Overall: awesome and recommended.

Tori Amos is editing a book of comics written about her songs!

May 7th, 2008 by Martin

This is probably old news to just about everyone, but I hadn’t heard about this book, called Comic Book Tattoo, so I’m posting it here anyway. I don’t know how much editorial control singer/songwriter Tori Amos really had, but supposedly she had her fingers in the book-making pie from start to finish.

It’s already available for pre-order from amazon, (including a super-deluxe hardcover edition for four-times the price), and they list the release date to be July 16th.

I found information about this all over the place (when I started looking), but the best article was at Comic Book Resources, as it has a lot more details and includes some sweet art from the collection.

Theater Hopper

April 23rd, 2008 by Martin

All these new comics (it’s Wednesday, yay!), but I haven’t had time to read any of them yet.

For some reason, I did find time to get distracted rediscovering Theater Hopper, a simple but awesome webcomic whose unique premise is simply to write about movies in comic form.

I actually first discovered Theater Hopper a little less than two years ago, the first time Florence and Susie and I went to Wizard World Chicago. Tom Brazelton had a booth and was selling copies of Theater Hopper – Year One and this Spoilers T-Shirt, one of which caught my eye through the crowd in that overly-busy convention space, and both of which I happily purchased. I’ll admit that I was mostly attracted to the t-shirt, but that the idea of theater hopper was also quite compelling to me.

I really liked that buying the book meant getting additional snarky commentary about each and every comic printed therein. It’s like director’s commentary, in book form. Tom was also kind enough to draw Jason Voorhees (from Friday the 13th) chasing the main character of the comic (also named Tom) with the caption “Run for your life!” in the inside cover of the book for me.

One really amazing observation is how much better Tom’s art has gotten over the years. When I clicked into the site today (while searching for comic book movies) I almost didn’t recognize it. I recognized the name, however, and went downstairs to find my book to see if it was the same comic I remembered. You can see the improvement just as easily by clicking “First” underneath the current comic. There is promise in those early comics, but nowhere near the skill level, I don’t think.

Anyway, I’ll finish this post this with a quote from the Introduction to Year One:

I’ve met some of the nicest people imaginable through this comic. It’s been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on. I’m no one special. I’m just like you. If you want to start your own web comic, there’s no grand secret to it.

All you need is a little gumption.

I found that particularly inspiring. Then again, I’m no one special. Just like Tom.

Ex Machina: Tag (Vol. 2)

April 17th, 2008 by Martin

This is just about as good as it gets.

I have liked every bit of Ex Machina that I’ve read so far. I remember after the first TPB I wasn’t so hooked that I had to go read the next one right away, but I liked it well enough. I think I needed some time to digest it, either that, or I just had a ton of other stuff to read at the time. (This is likely, as I always have a ton of stuff on my “to read” shelf.) I waited for almost a year to read this book, and I clearly didn’t know what I was missing!

Now I see that there are six trades out already. I have one more on the shelf downstairs, but assuming that one is as good as this one was, I’m going to have to go get the others sometime in the near future. (Looks like the library has them, so I might just take advantage of that. Yay!)

Anyway, what was it about? This guy, the mayor of NYC, he can talk to machines. I’m not really sure if they talk back to him. We don’t really know. But some fucked up shit happens. And some funny shit happens! It’s all a bit complicated, and I don’t want to spoil it, so just read it, it’s GOOD.


DMZ: Friendly Fire

April 16th, 2008 by Martin

I didn’t like this as much as the previous DMZ I’d read. I think it was because (I’m a bit surprised to say) it was less about the characters than the previous stories. Interesting and varied characters have been a big part of what I liked most about this comic. Even in the end, when I minded it less, (and read three issues on the bus to work this morning in quick succession), I still didn’t like it as much as early DMZ, though I liked it better than the beginning of the book.

For those who aren’t familiar, DMZ is about a post-succession United States. Or maybe a mid-succession. Basically, a bunch of people didn’t like the way the war was going, and they didn’t like the way their country was being run, and they decided to take over. But really, all that is just background painting for the stories that have been lovingly rendered in the foreground, that is, the lives of people living on manhattan island… or as it’s known in the book, the DMZ.

So yeah, interesting premise. Political, but it (refreshingly) doesn’t seem to beat you over the head with it. (Usually this means the book more or less agrees with my leanings, or I’d have noticed and gotten pissed about it. Either that, or I’m just a numbscull.) But it’s not the premise that keeps you entertained. It’s not even the setting, which, while it’s totally interesting to see what they do with a war torn New York, takes a distant second to the fascinating characters that have chosen to stay and live in the DMZ.

This book–not so much about the characters. There are only something like three new characters, and they are clearly only present to further this particular story, and none of them seem interesting enough to bring back in future issues. There is one development that happens toward the end of the book that I won’t spoil just in case there are DMZ readers reading this. Otherwise, the story is pretty much all about our hero, Matty Roth, doing what he’s allegedly been doing from the beginning, that is, tracking down a story. This mostly means he’s interviewing witnesses to a tragic event that happened in the beginning of the revolution. These witnesses are either not all that interesting, or they are characters we’ve met in previous issues, (and were more interesting then).

I don’t know, DMZ: Friendly Fire is still worth reading, especially if you’ve already been fascinated by the earlier DMZ, but I think these issues definitely represent a slump in the franchise.

Have you read it? What do you think?