Saturday, December 31, 2005

It just occurred to me that I neglected to indulge myself in my weekly...well, indulgence: NEW COMICS I'M GETTING THIS WEEK FROM DCBS!

WIMBLEDON GREEN, GREATEST COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR IN THE WORLD HC: Looks like a lot of fun from a preview I saw somewhere; proof positive that sort of thing works once in a while.

LIGHT BRIGADE TP: I declined to buy this when it was released as singles, but I've grown curious since then. I'm hoping for a sort of Soldier of the Great War meets Lucifer vibe.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE BULLETEER #2
Time for my long-awaited dose of silver plated T&A.

TOP 10: BEYOND THE FARTHEST PRECINCT #5
Churlish as it may sound, I'm kinda glad this one's over. It's like watching Eartha Kitt and John Astin play the Catwoman and Riddler on the third season of the Batman TV show.

HELLBLAZER #215
LUCIFER #69
BPRD: THE BLACK FLAME #5
Nothing to say about these. Sad, I know.

TESTAMENT #1
The preview in a recent issue of Neverwhere, I believe it was, convinced me to give it a go.

SILENT DRAGON #6
THE KEEP #3
I tend to be a completist and hate to bail on limited series, and these are proof positive of that.

CATWOMAN #50
Kudos to Will Pfiefer and Pete Woods for giving us such a solid superhero book.

SOLO #8
Not particularly a fan of Teddy Kristiansen, although he had some moments of brilliance on House of Secrets so long ago- so refer to my earlier comments about completist tendencies.

DAREDEVIL #80
Is it time for Brubaker and Lark yet? Huh? Huh?

And since I know you missed it, here's this week's Diamond shipping list.

I considered visiting the LCS for PERHAPANAUTS #2, but couldn't be arsed, as our friends from across the pond say.

Will this be the last post of 2005? Check back and see!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIt's "snow" use in delaying, it's time for JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PICKS...WEEK 17!

Last week, slightly better at 9-7. Season to date: 145-80 (+/- 1), .644

As always, the disclaimer. THESE PICKS ARE FOR (my own, and presumably your) AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY! DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT TAKE THESE PREDICTIONS AND BET YOUR HARD-EARNED OR SOFT-EARNED MONEY ON THEM, BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW ANY MORE ABOUT THE NFL THAN THE AVERAGE FAN, AND HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE INCORRECT QUITE FREQUENTLY! AND YOU DON'T KNOW ME- I MIGHT BE CRAZY, OR F*CKING WITH YOU!

Not a whole lot for some of these teams to play for, so who the heck knows what we'll be getting. I've never let that stop me before, though!

SAN DIEGO over Denver
NY GIANTS over Oakland
INDIANAPOLIS over Arizona
BALTIMORE over Cleveland
KANSAS CITY over Cincinnati
NEW ENGLAND over Miami
TAMPA BAY over New Orleans
SEATTLE over Green Bay
PITTSBURGH over Detroit
NY JETS over Buffalo
CAROLINA over Atlanta. There's no "D" in Atlanta Falcons, y'know. Plus, the game is more important to the Panthers. That said, hope I'm wrong, because I would be delighted if they could actually finish with consecutive winning records for the first time in, like, the history of ever.
SAN FRANCISCO over Houston
JACKSONVILLE over Tennessee
CHICAGO over Minnesota
WASHINGTON over Philadelphia
DALLAS over St. Louis

I won 3rd place in the freebie Yahoo league. Whoop-de-freakin-doo.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

AND NOW, THE JOHNNY BACARDI SHOW BEST OF 2005 IN COMICS!

As always, not what I'm saying were the absolute end-all and be-all best of the year, but merely the best that I READ in two double-aught five. Many worthy books did not cross my optical scanners in the 12 months previous, so I can't list 'em, sorry. But anyway, on Planet Dave, these were Nobel prize winners, there are a baker's dozen of 'em, and they're NOT in order of preference:

BAMBI AND HER PINK GUN #1 (Digital Manga)
Sexy, funny, violent as all get out and extremely well drawn by Kaneko Atsushi, this didn't exactly fly off shelves- which means that this just didn't appeal to the typical manga reader, and that's too bad for them.

DESOLATION JONES (DC/Wildstorm)
Warren Ellis gives us a downbeat, affecting character study in sci-fi espionage thriller clothes, and had the good fortune to attract one of the most innovative and brilliant artists working in the field today, J.H. Williams III. This isn't over yet, and Ellis may blow it before it's done, but this has been outstanding so far.

KANE: THE UNTOUCHABLE RICO COSTAS AND OTHER STORIES (Image)
Been waiting seemingly forever for this- the singles it collects are kinda hard to find- and although I have yet to hear a plausible explanation why this collection of late-90's stories took forever and a day to be released in 2005, it was definitely worth tolerating the delay. I discovered Paul Grist through JACK STAFF, and it's an excellent title in its own right, but the more I read of its predecessor, the more I think that this was/is his best work. Besides the usual Grist daredevil storytelling techniques, this features a nifty Sin City parody. I hope the next collection comes out before the decade's end...

PECULIA AND THE GROON GROVE VAMPIRES (Fantagraphics)
Richard Sala devotes an entire full-length graphic novel to his most charismatic and endearing character, not to mention sexiest, and it's a minor masterpiece of mood and fun.

SCOTT PILGRIM VOL. 2: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Oni)
Okay, maybe it didn't hit as many high notes as Vol. 1. I look at it this way- Magical Mystery Tour isn't quite as good a Beatle album as Sgt. Pepper's, either...but I love 'em both just the same.

SCURVY DOGS TPB (AiT/PlanetLar)
Couldn't have a "yar"-end review without listing this! Only a Philistine, or Rod Stewart perhaps, wouldn't think this was a hoot and a half.

SLEEPER SEASON TWO (DC/Wildstorm)
Proof positive that superhero comics don't have to be dumbed-down, melodramatic posturing and rehashed sci-fi/action movie clich├ęs. Many folks agreed with me, but sadly not nearly enough.

SMOKE (IDW)
This is the first thing I've read by Alex DeCampi, and it won't be the last. She took a number of well-worn themes and make them fresh, engrossing, and successful in its evocation of the spirit of classic British TV and films such as The Avengers, Danger Man, and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and it helped a lot that collaborator Igor Kordey gave us some of the best art of his career to date.

SOLO (DC)
This series was consistently excellent all year long, and the Paul Pope, Darwyn Cooke, Howard Chaykin, and Jordi Bernet spotlights in particular were magnificent. It's always great to see creators given the opportunity to wing it; sometimes a lot of wankery ensues, but often greatness is the result.

SUPERFUCKERS (Top Shelf)
Superfunny and supernaughty take on superheroes by James Kochalka. Lovers of Venture Brothers, South Park and Family Guy should be reading this, as should anyone with a sense of humor. Or, for that matter, a pulse.

TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD : THIS ONE GOES TO ELEVEN (AiT/PlanetLar)
Once again, Tom Beland entertains and enchants with his openhearted storytelling and graceful cartooning. Even though he's a 49er fan, I'll always come back for more.

WE3 (DC)
Yeah, I know, I listed this one last year, but #3 of the singles and the trade came out in '05 so here it is. Grant Morrison wrung all the pathos and drama he could out of what was essentially a amalgam of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.H.M., The Incredible Journey, Milo and Otis, Soldier, and C.H.O.M.P.S. , and no doubt made a lot of comics readers' pets very happy when they were inordinately treated with lots of love and care after their owners read the agonizing, but thrilling, finale. Frank Quitely was also at his best, depicting the events with intelligence and wit. Pray that there won't be a sequel, or a movie version.


HONORABLE MENTION:

10 (Boom! Studios)
Surprisingly good exercise in the high concept; kept me guessing all the way through. This and HERO SQUARED were keepers from fledgling publisher Boom!.

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (DC)
This was a bit too pat and pleased with itself for me to go nuts over, but I'll always line up for extra helpings of Morrison ideas with Quitely art sauce. After only one issue, I'm reserving judgement- but anybody that can get me all worked up enough to care about a Superman comic must be doing something right.

COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES #1 (Oni): Between this and the also-outstanding POLLY AND THE PIRATES, Ted Naifeh was on quite a roll- he's got that vaguely Goth, brave little girl thing all sewn up to himself. CCT was a look at the early days of Courtney's Uncle Aloyisius, who is almost as interesting a character as his niece.

ELECTRIC GIRL VOLUME 3 (AiT/PlanetLar)
Likeable and clever, smart and fun enough for the youngsters and the young at heart, too. You'd think Disney or Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network would be all over this. Not that I'd care to see that happen, mind you.

ESSENTIAL KILLRAVEN TPB (Marvel)
A sentimental favorite- this is one of my absolute favorite comics series of all time, all in one sadly uncolored but otherwise complete location. Sure, it was kinda pretentious, long-winded, often ridiculous and suffered from wildly inconsistent artist fill-ins, but this series engaged my imagination, thrilled my teenage soul, and for a little while enabled me to dream of making comics of my own one day. It's not Don McGregor & Craig Russell's fault I never followed through on that.

FELL (Image)
Ellis' winning streak continues as he introduces us to the unassuming Richard Fell, more Clouseau slash Columbo than Desolation Jones' Elric slash Sam Spade, and all the more likeable because of it. The stories tend to follow a A-B-C pattern, but fortunately the events are mostly novel (unless you make a habit out of perusing the tabloids and weird websites that Ellis seems to draw most of his inspiration from these days), the city of Snowtown is almost a character in itself in its malignant, sprawling griminess, and you can't beat this as an exercise in storytelling, especially considering its price point. I'm enjoying the Sienkiewicz-meets-Kyle Baker art of Ben Templesmith, too.

FELT: TRUE TALES OF UNDERGROUND HIP-HOP (Image)
I'm about as white as a white boy can be, but I really liked this- Jim Mahfood's work has an angular, thick-lined style that is always visually pleasing and the storyline was energetic and often funny.

FLYTRAP (Sara Ryan/Steve Lieber mini-comic)
Outstanding self-pubbed mini-comic, involving a down-on-her-luck booking agent that gets involved with a traveling circus. Hope Ryan and Lieber can do more of these someday, and it absolutely deserves a bigger audience.

GOTHAM CENTRAL (DC)
While it had its share of ups and downs over the year, this was mostly good, with the "Death of Robin" storyline working very well until a rather arbitrary ending. The addition of Kano on art was a definite plus.

HELLBOY: THE ISLAND (Dark Horse)
Only Mike Mignola can make what was essentially a two-issue infodump so entertaining.

NAT TURNER (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Fascinating and powerful, like the best historical nonfiction can be. Only the fact that this is half complete as of this writing, along with some questionable graphic design choices and the worst paper stock since mid-70's Marvel keeps me from putting this in the top 12.

NEIL GAIMAN'S NEVERWHERE (DC/Vertigo)
First a TV series, then a novel, and now a comic book- and rarely does thrice-cooked fare go down this well. Thank adapter Mike Carey, who rewrites with a sure hand and writes florid Gaimanesque dialogue much better than the titular "consultant" ever did, and especially artist Glenn Fabry, who is turning in a painstaking, fabulous job of depicting the funky, freaky world that Gaiman dreamed up. This has gotten zero buzz, and it's a shame.

OWLY: FLYING LESSONS (Top Shelf)
Maybe I'm just an old softie, but Owly stories always warm the ol' cockles. And that's a hell of a thing in these uncertain, troubled times.

THE LOSERS (DC/Vertigo)
I wasn't especially impressed with the big master scheme of bad guy Max revealed this year; it just came across as too mid-80's James Bond for my taste. That said, it was the only sour note that Andy Diggle hit- well, on this title anyway. He and artist Jock together are a dynamite team and I hope they work together again someday. Colin Wilson did an above-average fill-in job on a few issues as well. Another victim of fanboy apathy, and I'll miss this one when it's gone.

SEVEN SOLDIERS (DC)
The introductory #0 issue was a great read, especially thanks to Williams on art. The subsequent miniseries have been hit-and-miss; I liked Zatanna the most, followed closely by Klarion, and really the only dud so far has been the Shining Knight, due to breakdowns in storytelling cohesion more than any shortcomings in the art department. The jury's still out on this as a whole, to say the least.

SMOKE AND GUNS (AiT/PlanetLar)
If I was as enthralled by the story, a blend of The Warriors, Streets of Fire, and 40's Noir tropes, as I was by Fabio Moon's excellent art then I'd be shouting its praises from the rooftops. Still, this was fun, wouldn't mind seeing a sequel someday, and you can chalk up another winner for AiT/P.

THE SURROGATES (Top Shelf)
Here's one which has flown under a lot of folks' radar, but it's a tight little exploration of duality and identity issues, not to mention human nature, all decked out in Philip Dick clothing. Unless they totally botch the ending, this one's well worth your time.

THE WINTERMEN (DC/Wildstorm)
I was absolutely blown away by the first issue, but the next two, while strong, were mild letdowns due to some garbled pacing. There are layers upon layers upon layers in the tale that Brett Lewis has concocted, and one is rewarded upon re-readings with strong characters and imaginative situations. Plus, Lewis has a good ear for fractured Russian-English speech patterns, even though I kept wondering why it was necessary for the Russkies to carry on conversations in this awkward manner- you'd think they'd converse in their native tongue. Anyway, it's also great to see John Paul Leon turning in the best art of his career to date- hope someone notices.

TRICKED (Top Shelf)
Movie version by Paul Thomas Anderson, anyone? Still don't buy the rock star character, but everything else was involving and I even liked and sympathized with Ray Zone, too, as long as I didn't try to find a real-life musician to compare him to.

ULTIMATES 2 (Marvel)
Another excellent year for the superhero book fanboys, especially aging fanboys, love to hate. Remains to be seen if Millar can pull off the resolution.

Well, that's it. Coming up, eventually: movies and music, maybe even TV year-end lists.

Monday, December 26, 2005

JOHNNY B's NEW COMICS REVUE!
What I got and what I thought, weeks of December 7-21


Lots and lots of titles to run through, so forgive me if I'm even more brief than usual. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the gist of what I'm saying across, anyway.

10 (Boom! Studios)
S: Keith Giffen; A: Andy Kuhn
Surprisingly good mix of 100 Bullets and Death Race 2000, such a great high concept that I'm surprised it hasn't been done before- but damned if I can think of where. 10 people are sent a package with an automatic pistol and ten bullets, along with a name and address, and are told that there are at least eight other people that have received the same, and it's kill or be killed. The resultant mayhem, seen mostly through the eyes of two of the "lucky" contestants, is quite tense and unpredictable, and thankfully the resolution is free of moralizing and feel-good contrivance. Kuhn does a fine job, in his sloppy style, of setting up the desperation these characters experience. Boom! is becoming, I think, the AIP of comics publishers- giving us high-quality, memorable junk...and I mean that in a good way. A-

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPECULIA AND THE GROON GROVE VAMPIRES (Fantagraphics)
S/A: Richard Sala
Actually Evil Eye #13, the indicia says, which makes me even more annoyed that I didn't get a copy of this when it was released a few months ago. Peculia, for the uninitiated, was the back feature in the Evil Eye ongoing comic, and was usually always better than whatever chapter of the Reflections in a Glass Scorpion (now collected as Mad Night, if you're curious) serial. It was basically about a cute young rich girl who tended to wander in and out of encounters with various supernatural menaces, all done in the lighthearted yet straightfaced Sala fashion. This time, she gets center stage as she (as well as some gypsies who are in the vicinity) gets mixed up with a nest of vampires who are bent on preying on the girls of the nearby college, who think they're being hired as babysitters. Freed from the six-page restriction of the back feature format, Sala gives the story room to breathe- but unlike Scorpion, which kinda rambled on and on to no satisfying effect (as did the earlier GN The Chuckling Whatsit, this one is tight and to the point, and is the most effective and ingratiating showcase for what makes Sala special in a long time. And of course, nobody draws quirky monstrosities or sexy girls quite like he can. A+

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOWLY: FLYING LESSONS (Top Shelf)
S/A: Andy Runton
Everybody's favorite little round owl is back again, as he and his worm buddy encounter a flying squirrel (not named Rocky) who's deathly afraid of the nocturnal hunter owl, his natural enemy. Will the earthbound Owly learn to fly? Will the squirrel overcome his fear to help him? Will Wormy, who fell from a tall tree and hurt himself after hanging out with the flying squirrel, be OK? Well, you can probably figure it out for yourself, but you'll feel good after you've read it anyway so I can once more heartily recommend this latest in the Owly series. One thing keeps catching my eye, though- Owly's big saucer eyes are always brimming with tears, in good times and bad. Good gosh, little fella, don't be such a crybaby- it's gonna be all right! Buck up there! A

FUSED TALES (Boom!)
S: Steve Niles, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Long; A: "Chee", Nick Stakal, Andrew Ritchie
Concrete meets Deathlok the Demolisher meets The Iron Giant. Three stories about an unfortunate scientist who has gotten "fused" with a big computerized suit of battle armor, and while none of them are terrible, it all just feels kinda second-hand. I liked the second story the best; artist Nick Stakal has a nice sort of Tommy Lee Edwards-meets-Ted McKeever style which grabbed my eye. B

DMZ #2 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli
Although I still am dubious about the basic premise, I am interested in where it's going- Wood is being deliberate in showing us how the post-civil war NYC is divided, but the vignettes we're getting are memorable and he is building a little empathy for the stranded lead, Matt. So far, so good. B+

THE SURROGATES #3 (Top Shelf)
S: Robert Venditti; A: Brett Weldele
This has quietly become a very enjoyable read- the dramatics are effective, the character interaction is sharp, the sci-fi elements interesting, and Venditti doesn't bludgeon us with the basic theme: individualism, duality, experiencing life by proxy, etc. The art reminds me a bit of Trevor Von Eeden in the latter issues of Thriller and his World's Finest stint- sloppy and loose, but never slack and dull. Don't be surprised if this one doesn't end up in my 2005 best-of. A

SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #2
S: Grant Morrison; A: Billy D. Patton, Freddie Williams III, Michael Bair
Never heard of Billy Dallas Patton; never want to see him darken a comic I buy ever again. His work was so stiff and awkward that it damn near rendered this one unreadable, for me at least. Williams comes on at the end, and he's slightly better but not by much...and I think he's slated to illustrate #'s 3 & 4, joy. The concept that Grant's giving us here would have made a good stand-alone New Gods arc, I think; it certainly doesn't seem to have much in common with the other miniseries so far. I'm sure that'll change. C+

POWERS 15 (Marvel/Icon)
S: Brian M. Bendis; A: Michael Avon Oeming
This book's slipping into that Hellblazer/100 Bullets/Daredevil zone; it rewards longtime readers with interesting character developments for those who have been around long enough to be invested, and everyone else, I would imagine, would be left scratching their heads as to why the faithful remain thus. And, like those books, they're damned hard to review every month because they're so consistently consistent. In this ish, Detective Christian Walker seems to be finally about to find out why his powers have been absent all this time and Detective Deena Pilgrim continues to sink deeper into deep shit. Artist Oeming also continues to be able to do no wrong. A-

NAT TURNER #2 (Kyle Baker Pub.)
S/A: Kyle Baker
Powerful and moving, Baker the raconteur at his very best. But Baker the artist needs to tell Baker the publisher that cheap-ass paper stock isn't helping his art at all, and Baker the publisher and Baker the writer need to remind Baker the artist that graphic designers eschew script fonts by and large (except for formal invitations and headings and so on) because THEY'RE TOO DAMNED HARD TO READ IN LARGE HUNKS OF TEXT! A-

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJINGLE BELLE: THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Dark Horse)
S: Paul Dini; A: Stephanie Gladden, Jose Garibaldi, Jason Bone
Somebody pinch me- a Jingle Belle one shot that actually hit the racks before Christmas! And it's a good one, too- all three stories are lots of fun as we get a sequel to the Mighty Elves one shot of a few years ago, an amusing (and even a little awww-inducing) story about Jing-assisted lemming love, and Dini gets in some potshots at the current administration in the finale. All three stories boast great art: Gladden, whose hyperkinetic Foglio-ish style is used to great effect in the leadoff hockey tale, Garibaldi, who once again shows a superior command of color, layout and expression; and last but not least, JBS favorite J. Bone, who does a typically stellar job and gives us a sexy semi-makeover for the title character. Hope you got this before the holidays, but if not, it's darn good reading anytime! A

HAWAIIAN DICK: THE LAST RESORT #3 (Image)
S: B. Clay Moore; A: Steven Griffin
Mele Kelikimaka, since I got this right before Christmas! Anytime you wait this long for something, there's bound to be a letdown, and this is one- but it's a slight one, and it's mostly because really nothing much significant seems to happen to advance the plot in this installment. But that's a minor quibble- it's great to see that Griffin is going to finish the book; he's THE artist for Byrd and Co., although Nick Derington did a great job in #2 so long ago. Story-wise, there are still some great character bits and I'm happy that this seems to be on schedule because I'm still very interested in how this is going to get resolved. A-

FABLES #44 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy
This title has been very strong lately; the Arabian Nights and Days arc has been consistently clever and sharp, and this issue is more of the same. We also get a neat twist at the end which I honestly didn't see coming. A

100 BULLETS 67 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso
Things happen in this issue, but the whole plot is beginning to show strains of collapsing under the weight of its labrynthine and cumbersome plot. Two major characters converge in search of a third, and even though I've been reading since issue one I had to stop and think hard about how the seeked came to be in the location that the seekers found them in, and why they were seeking them in the first place, and in particular why one of them is interested, since I don't recall any signs of it before...and I didn't feel like going on a expedition to hunt up my back issues to refresh my memory. Oh well, I'll just hang on and ride it out. As always, excellently illustrated by Risso, who is absolutely amazing in his output and consistency. A-

ROCK 'N' ROLL (Image)
S/A: Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Bruno D'Angelo, "Kako".
Best of show here, unsurprisingly, is the segment written and drawn by Moon and Ba. Chances are if you're interested in this at all, it's because of them and they don't disappoint- Moon's work is a lithe and graceful as ever. "Kako" also pulls off a nice Mignola-esque style in the third installment. All of this in service to a story which gives us a father and daughter who get mixed up with some sort of rock 'n' roll cult. I can't say I wouldn't mind finding out more about this premise, but somebody's gonna have to put some meat on these plot bones for me to do so. B+

LOCAL #2 (Oni)
S: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly
Love the title: "Polaroid Boyfriend". Interesting premise, too, as our Megan gets involved with a fellow who sneaks into her apartment and leaves photos of himself, and since he's a handsome fella she begins to encourage him by leaving pics of herself as well, despite the cautioning of her friend. Once more, we get multiple endings, and I'm not really sure what conclusion we're supposed to draw from any of them except perhaps that two out of three times Meg will indulge herself in risky behavior. Artwise, stellar again as Ryan Kelly gives us some loose, Pope-like but painstakingly detailed Minneapolis backgrounds and character expressions. Another solid issue. A-

GOTHAM CENTRAL 38 (DC)
S: Greg Rucka; A: Kano, Steven Gaudiano
Despite the annoying bait-and-switch of the cover, this is another outstanding issue which gives us some good dramatics and a surprising death. I also fear that the irony of having a character named Jim Corrigan cause the creation of the new Spectre is too juicy for Rucka and his editors to pass up. We'll see, I guess. A-

ULTIMATES 2 #9 (Marvel)
S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Things just keep going from bad to worse as our team of Unloveables deals with traitors in the ranks (and who didn't see this one coming?) as well as the machinations of Ultimate Loki, which result in apparent total defeat for Nick Fury & Co. But we all know that's going to change, don't we, just as we know how this issue's traitor will get their comeuppance, right? So while this is proving formulaic, at least it's nicely dialogued and wonderfully drawn by the Hitch/Neary team. A-

JONAH HEX #2 (DC)
S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Luke Ross
The second issue of Clint Eastwood Comics and Stories gives us Jonah in Indiana Jones-mold, as he seeks retribution for the murder of a priest and the theft of a valuable crucifix stolen from his church, and also gets mixed up with a corrupt town sheriff a la Gene Hackman in the Quick and the Dead, that you just know is there for Hex to get the best of in dramatic fashion at the end. So while this isn't the freshest thing to come down the pass, it doesn't smell funny because things are kept moving along at a brisk clip and the Gray/Palmiotti team doesn't lapse into melodramatics. That Luke Ross fella does a great job on art as well; his soft-focus painted style is evocative of a thousand-and-one Spaghetti Westerns. A-.

WOW! That's it! Next up, before the week is through, the Best of 2005 in comics.
May I direct your attention to the B-Side, a blog where someone named Red Kelly dissects some of his favorite songs that appeared on the other side of those ancient vinyl artifacts, the 45- aka "the single". He has earned my eternal good will (and a link) by posting great tributes to Dr. John's "Mos Scocious" from Desitively Bonaroo and the Meters' "Lovin' You is On My Mind" from the incredible Rejuvenation. Go check him out!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


RIP Vincent Schiavelli, (first on the left above) who gave memorable performances in a number of projects, both on the small screen and large. He'll always be best known to me, however, as John O'Connor, red Lectroid henchman of Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
THA GRINCH IS THA WINNAH!

(Something amusing until I can get the reviews posted)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPuritans had sound theological reasons for suppressing Christmas: Jesus himself never proposed that Christians observe his birth (as he did ask them to commemorate his death), nor did the Bible offer even the slightest clue about what time of year he was actually born. But the most powerful reason for the Puritans' ban on Christmas had to do with holiday merriment...An Elizabethan bishop, Hugh Latimer, put the matter most succinctly: "Men dishonour Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas, than in all the 12 months besides."

I haven't opined upon the current God-botherer (love that term, thanks, Warren Ellis) fixation upon "the war on "Christmas"; I suppose as someone who considers himself 98% athiest, it doesn't really matter to me whether you wish me a merry ex-mas, happy holiday, or kwazy Kwanzaa. They're all expressions of good will, and thus OK by me. But I'm always amused by those pious souls who feel threatened by this tempest in a teapot, and are apparently utterly ignorant of the origins of the holiday (and by extension, their Lord and Savior's presumed birthday) they so vigorously defend. The above is from this shortish article I read in the Courier-Journal on Thursday; it explains this quite succinctly, I liked it, and now I'm pointing it out to you.

My Ex-mas gift to you. I'll probably post something-or-other tomorrow, no holiday blogging break for me! I'm also seriously considering going to see both Narnia and King Kong, so don't wait up for me. At any rate, whatever your belief, I hope you have a wonderful, marvelous, and extraordinary next couple of days. From all of me to all of you.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


There have been several people linking to their favorite holiday-related comics covers, like this one at the Pulse, which was brought to my attention by the fine folks at the Great Curve.

However, I haven't seen the above cover listed, from the '90s Spectre run-one of many excellent cover images by a stellar group of artists. This is credited to one Lou Harrison, who I'm totally unfamiliar with except for this clever piece. In fact, it sold at this site for $850, which no doubt made someone's Christmas very merry indeed!

The interior story wasn't too bad either-an appropriately-enough touching tale by John Ostrander, with art by British stalwart John Ridgeway, whose stiff, grubby style actually worked quite well this time out.
Lots of games tomorrow, so I'll take this opportunity to bestow JOHNNY B'S WEEK 16 NFL PREDICTIONS!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis week's celebrity disclaimer spokesperson is Paul Dini's enchanting creation, Jingle Belle. Jing, if you please: THESE PICKS ARE FOR (his own, and presumably your) AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY! DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT TAKE THESE PREDICTIONS AND BET YOUR HARD-EARNED OR SOFT-EARNED MONEY ON THEM, BECAUSE HE DOESN'T KNOW ANY MORE ABOUT THE NFL THAN THE AVERAGE FAN, AND HAS BEEN KNOWN TO BE INCORRECT QUITE FREQUENTLY! AND YOU DON'T KNOW HIM- HE MIGHT BE CRAZY, OR F*CKING WITH YOU!


Last week: a pathetic 8-8. Season so far, + or - 1 game: 136-73, .651.

CAROLINA over Dallas
CINCINNATI over Buffalo
PITTSBURGH over Cleveland. If you're betting, take the Browns and the points.
JACKSONVILLE over Houston
KANSAS CITY over San Diego
MIAMI over Tennessee
NEW ORLEANS over Detroit
ST. LOUIS over San Francisco
TAMPA BAY over Atlanta. Breaks my heart. But there's no way they're going to march into Tampa with that slack defense and muddled-up QB and pull one out.
NY GIANTS over Washington
PHILADELPHIA over Arizona
DENVER over Oakland
SEATTLE over Indianapolis. The Colts' minds will be elsewhere after the Dungy's tragedy and the loss of their first game last weekend, plus it's never easy to travel cross country and play in Seattle.
CHICAGO over Green Bay
BALTIMORE over Minnesota
NEW ENGLAND over the NY Jets.

I finished strong in the money fantasy league at 5-9 (I was 1-8 at one point!), and the only thing I accomplished was blowing the #1 pick. Bah.

In the freebie league, I lost my playoff game to someone who was fortunate enough to play the Ravens D in that Monday Night debacle. I play this weekend for 3rd place. Humbug.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I don't see much point in it if you're going to go to all the work to set one up and then only post every time Halley's Comet reappears.

You talkin' to me, Mark Evanier? You talkin'to me?

I'm sure he isn't, but it certainly seems like it. The new job (as well as the old part-time job, this week) has put some serious hurt on my blogging time, no bout-a-doubt it. And while I don't want to make a bunch of promises I can't keep, I have a few things in mind I'd like to get up before Tuesday, including a slew-ton of comics reviews and my 2005 best-of list, which I'm sure you're all breathlessly awaiting.

And to bring me full circle, happy 5th blogiversary, Mark!

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's been over two weeks now since I got any new comics, so it seems kinda pointless- but I can't help myself. Here's what I'll be getting one of these days according to the NEW DIAMOND SHIPPING LIST!

HELLBLAZER #215
LIGHT BRIGADE TP
LUCIFER #69
SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #2
TESTAMENT #1
TOP 10: BEYOND THE FARTHEST PRECINCT #5
WIMBLEDON GREEN, GREATEST COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR IN THE WORLD HC

Also coming out, and I overlooked it somehow when I made out my DCBS order, is OWLY VOL 3: FLYING LESSONS, which will be worth a trip to the LCS to see if they got a copy.

The MOME VOL 2 GN is also coming out; I managed to miss Vol. 1, but this anthology looks worthy of your attention.

And that's all, folks! I'm supposed to get my 2 weeks' shipment tomorrow, and reviews will be forthcoming.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

All the cool comics bloggers have done it already, but I think I'll try to justify my place in the "Comics Blogosphere" by providing actual comics-related content and running down some reactions to the March '06 DC solicits.

Be warned: this is far from comprehensive. Each month I find less and less that intrigues me from the former National Periodical Publications, and since I pretty much made a point of ignoring all the Identity Foofraw, this "One Year Later" business that premieres with this month's books is mighty underwhelming to me as well. Anyway, here goes nothing.

First, while I'm thinking about it, here's a fond wish. I was standing in a Waldenbooks yesterday, skimming a copy of the latest Batman, drawn by Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, who are among my favorite mainstream comics artists right now, especially when they work together. I really hope this run gets collected. OK, on to the few, the proud.

CATWOMAN #53 is the first thing that catches my eye; I'll miss Pete Woods, that's for sure. But Will Pfiefer, who's doing well on scripts, is still around and Adam Hughes is still doing the covers so I see no reason to drop yet. Apparently Holly, dyed blonde, will be donning the Catsuit for no apparent reason, but I'm sure Will will give us one.

Another candidate for a trade collection purchase: BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN, #5 of which is listed. Matt Wagner's work is always a strong incentive.

BATMAN: YEAR ONE HUNDRED #2 continues the Paul Pope series. I loves me some Paul Pope.

I suggest skipping the BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE TP, which just made me sad when I read half of it in singles format because of the apparent decline of two of my favorite '70s creators, Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart. Maybe it ended amazingly, but I doubt it.

The synopsis of ALL STAR SUPERMAN #3 certainly sounds like one of those goofball Weisinger/Binder Superman tales of yore, but then I remember that I never cared for those goofball stories of yore all that much, not even as a young child reading them for the first time.

That said, I wouldn't mind having a copy of the SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE SUPERMAN FAMILY VOL. 1 TP, because the kid that was underwhelmed by the Superman proper stories kinda liked Jimmy Olsen stories. Go figure.

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #40: Has it come to this, then? Every time I see the cover scan I hear the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, addressing Bullwinkle the magician: "But that trick never works!" Kurt Busiek says: "This time for SURE!"

I bought the Bizarro Comics HC a few years ago because I got it at a good price. I'd love to get its sequel, BIZARRO WORLD, in hardcover as well but I think I'll settle for the softcover, which is listed for this month.

The CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN: STOLEN MOMENTS, BORROWED TIME TP was pretty good, nothing earth-shaking, but a not-bad Chaykin patch on the original concept. You could do worse for a couple of hours' read, but I still prefer the Loeb/Sale early 90's take, which is also available.

Part of me looks at that cover image for BLUE BEETLE #1 and goes "Oh, brother. He looks like a fugging Transformer." But then again, the old Beetle just never quite had that visual pizazz, so maybe it will be worthwhile, if you're craving armored superheroics. Cully Hamner isn't a bad illustrator. I won't be buying, but I am intrigued.

The only noteworthy thing about GREEN ARROW #60 is that the run of beautiful James Jean covers is over. Oh well, I always thought he was slumming there anyway. Guess his new car is paid for or something.

In the "What the F--?" department, HAWKGIRL #50. Howard Chaykin? On art? Walt Simonson? Writing? What the hell is this, Sword of Sorcery? My interest in the Hawks is so completely and utterly devoid that not even that team can make me wanna buy. Or can they? But-- Why Hawkman/girl? Sigh. Y'know what I like about Chaykin's women the most? It's that nasty, sexy little lip curl that he always draws them with. That little bit of Elvis inside each and every one of us made manifest. This issue's cover (go on, click the link) is a prime example of what I'm talking about. Don't try to tell me you haven't noticed it!

The mental picture created by JONAH HEX shaving on the cover of #5 gives me the willies, because we're still not sure exactly how he got that lovely profile of his...

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF THE SUPER-HEROES #16. Well, sure. Why the hell not. Why not throw in the Birds of Prey, the Secret Six and the Metal Men while you're at it? Oh, I know, it's a cutesy/clever nod to the days when it was SuperBOY and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but for my money I'd just as well have Andromeda and you can wake me up when Kinetix returns.

MAD MOD COMICS starring THE TEEN TITANS a.k.a. SHOWCASE PRESENTS: the TEEN TITANS VOL. 1 TP sports one of Nick Cardy's best covers, and should be a good read. Those Showcases are still a bit pricey for me, but if I hadn't read most of the stuff before, in color, I'd be a lot more excited about this reprint series. When will they do Sea Devils, Sugar & Spike, and Bob Hope?

More snazzy Doug Mahnke art on the cover of SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #4, which is the finale of that series. Gosh, has it been that long ago when this all started? And is anybody as excited about the whole Seven Soldiers series as they were when it began? Also concluding will be SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #4 and SEVEN SOLDIERS: MR. MIRACLE #4 (the synopsis for this one sounds completely bugfuck), as well as the second trade collection.

I didn't go over DC's solicits last month, so I didn't get to make this statement: I have never, ever, liked the Warlord comic. It always read to me like second-hand Burroughs, with typically bad Grell artwork that featured some of the most ridiculous costumes and armor known to mankind. I know the series has its hardcore faithful, but Iassume it's because of the high camp factor. This said, I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I am less than enthralled about its comeback. THE WARLORD #2 is the latest issue.

THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL. 18 HC contains the great Katherine Hepburn homage that Warren titled "Visitor", with its beautiful splash page. It's one of my favorite Eisner Spirit stories. Right now, the Spirit Archives are featuring the absolute cream of the Eisner crop, and if I was a rich girl, la da da da da, I'd have me a set, you bet.

"Michael Jones has been played for a fool from the start." begins the solicit copy for DESOLATION JONES #6, and if this surprises anybody I have some prime Crossgen back issues I'd like to sell.

"What the f---" department item #2: RED SONJA /CLAW THE UNCONQUERED: DEVIL'S HANDS #1. I read the original Claw series back in the day, kinda sorta liked it (but not as much as Beowulf: Dragon Slayer, I keep telling everyone), but never expected to see this teamup. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway? John Layman's not a bad writer, so it may be worth your while; let me know, OK?

I see that the next issue of THE WINTER MEN, #4, has been delayed until this month. I hope that I remember what the heck it was all about by the time I receive it!

I actually ordered the hardcover of TOP 10: THE 49ERS just this month from DCBS. But now that the softcover version has been solicited, I'm considering cancelling the HC and ordering it instead. Either way, I really want to read it and I've waited long enough as it is!

I had kinda overlooked AMERICAN VIRGIN #1 until I saw the creators involved. Steve Seagle's House of Secrets was a strong, overlooked series and Becky Cloonan is fresh off her excellent DEMO. So I'm tempted, although the title makes it sound like a bad '70s sex comedy flick.

Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry have, as I keep trying to remind everyone, done a fine job of adapting NEIL GAIMAN'S NEVERWHERE. #7 is the latest issue.

Well, gosh darn it, that's all I found noteworthy. And that'll do for actual comics commentary, at least until I finally get my last two weeks' comics shipment!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDid something a bit unusual last night; went to see a concert featuring jazz pianist Beegie Adair and her trio at Kentucky Repertory Theatre here in Horse Cave.

As Neil Young once wrote: "Live music is better; bumper stickers should be issued." And while the cocktail-jazz trio type music she purveys usually bores me on record, in person it's quite entertaining. I suppose I should backtrack a bit and explain the situation. Ms. Adair is a native of nearby Cave City, KY, a graduate of not only my alma mater Caverna High School in the 1950's but also of my other mater Western Kentucky University, who has managed to move beyond her humble beginnings to become a jazz pianist of worldwide renown. And also provide me with a bit of egg on my face, because until a couple of years ago I had never heard of her, no jazz authority I. However, when my father-in-law handled an auction for her family some time back, my wife became acquainted with her and became quite the fan, picking up some of her CDs. Of course, it helps that she has recorded more than one collection of Christmas music, Mrs. B being an avid collector of same. I was checking out her bio on her website, link above, and was a bit surprised to see that among her many accomplishments she was the house pianist for the Johnny Cash Show in the '70s, which automatically makes her cool in my book. Anyway, Theresa kept hoping for a chance to see her play live, and it's never really worked out for us to do so (she does play a lot in Nashville, among other places)...but when she decided to do a homecoming concert at KRT, we couldn't pass up the opportunity. All in all, it was a fine evening's worth of entertainment- her repertoire consisted mostly of music by composers from the '40s and '50s, tailored for the audience which definitely skewed older-than-me. The arrangements were crisp and efficient, and her backing musicians were first-rate. Since it was billed as a "Christmas Homecoming" (or something like that) she inserted a couple of medleys of seasonal tuneage, and the whole show was a success, and the only way it would have been better was if I could have sipped a beer or a cocktail as I listened...but that's the price we pay for living in a dry county. I had been thinking for quite some time now that our small, often cash-strapped Theatre should investigate featuring live music shows when the regular repertory season was over, and hopefully this will become a more frequent occurrence. The acoustics in the building were just fine, and would suit itself to other performances of this nature, as well as solo acoustic guitar-type shows and such. There was a reception afterwards at the historic old house which is adjacent to the KRT building, in which I got to hobnob with many of Horse Cave's foremost citizenry. Theresa was hoping to get an autograph on one of her CDs, but the competition for Ms. Adair's attention was fierce, and she promised to come by the office later to sign next chance she got.

And that's how I spent my Saturday night, in case you were wondering!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Looks like a busy weekend for me, plus there are three games tomorrow...so I'l take this opportunity to issue forth another edition of JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PIGSKIN PICKS!

Last week, 11-5, meh. Season to date, 128-65 (+/- 1), .663.

First, disclaimer city:

THESE PICKS ARE FOR (my own, and presumably your) AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY! DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT TAKE THESE PREDICTIONS AND BET YOUR HARD-EARNED OR SOFT-EARNED MONEY ON THEM, BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW ANY MORE ABOUT THE NFL THAN THE AVERAGE FAN, AND HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE INCORRECT QUITE FREQUENTLY! AND YOU DON'T KNOW ME- I MIGHT BE CRAZY, OR F*CKING WITH YOU!

NEW ENGLAND over Tampa Bay. Wishful thinking? Maybe...
NY GIANTS over Kansas City
DENVER over Buffalo
ARIZONA over Houston
CAROLINA over New Orleans. No amount of wishful thinking will let the Aints beat the Panthers.
INDIANAPOLIS over San Diego. This should be a hell of a game, though. The Colts' D will prove the difference.
JACKSONVILLE over San Francisco
ST. LOUIS over Philadelphia. The nightmare continues for the Iggles.
MIAMI over the NY Jets
SEATTLE over Tennessee. The Seahawks are bound to lose again sometime, but I just can't see it against the punchless Titans.
MINNESOTA over Pittsburgh. Sometimes you just gotta play a hunch.
CINCINNATI over Detroit. The Bengals better watch out for a letdown...
OAKLAND over Cleveland
DALLAS over Washington
GREEN BAY over Baltimore
aaaand...

ATLANTA over Chicago. But they better run the ball. And run some more. Both Dunn and Duckett. And Vick, too. And even give the ball on an end around to White, Jenkins and Finneran. I wanna see a 80-20 run-to-pass ratio. I hope the Bears' D will accomodate my wishes! If the Falcons can win this game, they'll finish with back-to-back winning records for the first time in team history, which stretches back to 1966!


Update 12/18, 10:33 pm: Apologies to everyone for picking the Falcons- I was picking with my heart instead of my head. I should have known better than to think that they could go up there in freezing temps with their soft D and befuddled QB and beat the Bears with that defense. Same for that Dallas/Washington game.
And now a word from Bacardi Show management:

Although the tracking site says my comics shipment (two weeks worth!) was delivered to my door today, there is nary a box to be found around Casa Bacardi- which means it will be Monday before they get to me, dammit. Probably what happened is that no one was home to take delivery. Bah. Humbug. Anyway, if there are no comics reviews this weekend, that's why.

Basically, the only new comic I've received in the last couple of weeks was Boom!'s Fused Tales, whch wasn't exactly long-review inspiring (not that I write long, or particularly insightful for that matter reviews, anyway- was Larry Young talkin 'bout me, ya think?) so it will be in with the next review column I write, whenever that will be...!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTom the Dog, I share your unease.

Like him, I like to think I know a bit about music- but every time I look at lists like these from the Onion's AV club, I am confronted with hundreds of indie-and-below level bands with odd-for-odd's sake names, and three quarters of the time when I do hear these acts, they always sound either unremarkably samey or remind me of other groups from years, sometimes even decades gone by. Kinda depressing, because I still like to think I'm a hip, with-it kinda guy...but instead I just feel like an out-of-touch old man who still buys Kate Bush, McCartney, Neil Young, and Hall & Oates albums. When they come out.

Anyways, Tom collated all the diverse acts cited on these lists, to illustrate how many he'd heard or even heard of. Since he already did all the work, I thought I'd follow suit and post a list of the ones that I had heard and heard of and so on. And it goes like this.

No fucking clue.

Animal Collective, Feels
Antony And The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now
Atmosphere, You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having
Big Pooh, Sleepers
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
Boom Bap Project, Reprogram
Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene
Chad VanGaalen, Infiniheart
Clem Snide, End Of Love
Common, Be
Constantines, Tournament Of Hearts
Criteria, When We Break
Crooked Fingers, Dignity And Shame
Danger Doom, The Mouse And The Mask
The Deadly Snakes, Porcella
Dominik Eulberg, Kreucht & Fleucht
Edan, Beauty And The Beat
Four Tet, Everything Ecstatic
The Go! Team, Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday
Jamie Lidell, Multiply
Konono No. 1, Congotronics
Latterman, No Matter Where We Go...!
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem
Little Brother, The Minstrel Show
Maria Taylor, 11:11
Matias Aguayo, Are You Really Lost
Maxamo Park, A Certain Trigger
The National, Alligator
Out Hud, Let Us Never Speak Of It Again
The Perceptionists, The Perceptionists
Quasimoto, The Further Adventures Of Lord Quas
Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures
Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Exploration
Sun Kil Moon, Tiny Cities
Supersystem, Always Never Again
Troubled Hubble, Making Beds In A Burning House
Zion I, True & Livin'
Low, The Great Destroyer

Heard of, but haven't heard this particular effort.

Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production Of Eggs. This guy used to play various instruments, most notably violin, for the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I even own one of his albums, a band effort with Bowl of Fire called Thrills. I found it less than thrilling, hence my utter lack of interest in his subsequent work.

Iron & Wine and Calexico, In The Reins. Read a handful of reviews. I'd listen if I had half a chance.

My Morning Jacket, Z. These guys are from Louisville, so I've read plenty about them. Everyone raves about their records, too, and I've heard a few tracks that sounded OK. Sadly, the urge to purchase has remained elusive.

The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
Sigur Ros, Takk... Two more bands which get namechecked constantly but failed to impress when I gave them a spin.

Sufjan Stevens, Illinois. This guy sounds interesting, but I'm afraid he's another of those sensitive singer-songwriter types (cf. Jack Johnson) who are interesting at first but don't reward repeated listenings.

Bob Mould, Body Of Song. The appeal of Husker Du and Mould escapes me to this day. Diff'rent strokes for diffrent fokes.

Death Cab For Cutie, Plans. Another favorite band of my son and his girlfriend, Meg. Didn't impress me much, but after viewing Magical Mystery Tour again the other night for the first time in years, I was astounded to discover that this group took its name from the song that Viv Stanshall and the Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band sang in the strip club scene! That right there gets brownie points from me.

Kanye West, Late Registration. Ehhh, no. West doesn't do a thing for me, and I don't understand all the fuss, either.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cold Roses. I'm hot-and-cold on Adams, but I have a few but not all of his albums, both solo and Whiskeytown. Heard one track from this months ago, thought it was pretty good.

Sleater-Kinney, The Woods. haven't listened to these guys much, if at all. A lot of really smart people are devoted to them, so no doubt it's once again a case of me missing out on the good things in life.

Foo Fighters, In Your Honor. I've never been intrigued enough to get one of their albums, even though I've heard the occasional song that sounded OK. I don't see this one breaking the trend.

Neil Diamond, 12 Songs. Took me forever to appreciate Diamond, but now I can kinda dig the 60's-70's stuff. I've read rave after rave about this one, so I may take the plunge someday.

Heard and don't own.

Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. Saw this guy perform on TV, got a little curious, asked my son if he had anything by him, and sure enough he did. My son probably is more aware of many of the bands in the first list than I am. Anyway, he burned me a copy of one of them, it may have been this one- I forget- but it didn't make much of an impression although it wasn't terrible, hence my forgetfulness.

Bob Dylan, No Direction Home: The Soundtrack. This guy rings a bell. I'll own this someday, probably on DVD and CD. Saw the documentary when it aired on PBS, loved it. Wished it had been longer.

Kings Of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak. My son again. He has this one, and I borrowed it for a while and it didn't grab me- all I heard was Stones comparisons, but the vocalist didn't sound anything like Jagger or Richards or Wood or Stewart or Ronnie Lane or even Chris Robinson...and neither did the beat. A lot of knowledgable people love this, though, so I think I'll give it another listen one of these days.

The Decemberists, Picaresque. Couldn't go a day without reading someone's LJ that cited these guys as the music they were listening to, so since all the cool hip creative folks liked them, then by God I should too! And after downloading a few tracks from this and acouple of other previous efforts, well, I'm pleased to report that I liked them very much, and will soon pick this up and maybe even some of their back catalogue while I'm at it. Unfortunately, I don't feel any more cool, hip or creative.

Coldplay, X&Y. Loved the previous album, and loved selected cuts from their first. Everything I've heard from this one so far sounds uninspired and rehashed, so I have yet to buy.

Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine. Got real tired real fast of her first album, never bought the second, but everything I've heard so far from this sounds great, especially the title track...so I'll probably be getting eventually.

Heard and own! And perhaps even like!

Eels, Blinking Lights And Other Revelations. An outstanding double album that probably would have made a great single one. Disc 2 is the one to keep.

Gwen Stefani, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. I liked this one quite a bit when I first got it, and still listen to it upon occasion, which is more than I can say for some of my other recent purchases.

The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan. Another solid minimist blues-rock effort, which occasionally gets some play from me.

...and that's it! Sad, huh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Don't look now, but it's finally time for JOHNNY B HEART NETFLIX part who the hell knows. * signifies a movie I saw on cable.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, ALICE COOPER (1974) is a film that had I yearned to see ever since 14-year-old Alice Cooper Band freak me first read about it in the long ago pages of Creem magazine. As with another film of 1974 vintage that I waited decades to see, Harry Nilsson & Ringo's Son of Dracula, I wish I could say it was worth the wait. GTSYAACis two, two, two films in one: one part excellent concert footage, from the 1973 Billion Dollar Babies tour, of the original Group in all its seedy glory: Mike Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Glen Buxton, along with Bob Dolin on keys and Mick Mashbir on guitar, two session guys recruited to beef up the sound (and in Mashbir's case, play what Buxton was too wasted to), and another half excruciatingly lame Monkees/Help!-style comedy interludes, most featuring one of the crew (a 2nd cameraman, to be precise) named Fred Smoot, who plays a director out to "get" the band for ruining his big musical motion picture- which is actually the only non-concert scene which really works as Cooper comes out on a big, Busby Berkeley-style set and sings "Lady is a Tramp" with a fellow in a wig playing piano and his band sitting uncomfortably in a big-band section, dressed in white tuxes. Of course, they rebel and bail after trashing the stage, and thus begins the wretchedness as Smoot, mugging incessantly and aided by a big fellow wearing a helmet give chase. Think Dom DeLuise on thorazine. I'm not exaggerating here- this stuff is really horrible and amateurish, but I watched it anyway just so I can say I did. Which is not to say that I didn't give in to the forward scan urge upon occasion. Anyway, mercifully, the DVD has a "play concert only" option, and unless you're a hardcore fan (or maybe if) that's what you'll want to do. Buxton notwithstanding, the band was in fine form, with bassist Dunaway a hoot as he stalked around in circles on the cagelike stage set in a silver suit, and they really cook on several of these 1972-1973 vintage tracks, including "Sick Things", a surprising "My Stars", one of the more obscure cuts from the School's Out album; the title cut from that one, of course; "Elected", and others. Alice fights a dancer dressed like a tooth, brandishing a toothbrush during the silly dental-nightmare song "Unfinished Sweet", presaging the cartoonishness to come and featuring the Amazing Randi of all people as the dentist, who takes a giant drill and works on his mouth. Alice gets beheaded. He spits on the top of a silver mannequin's torso, then lies below it and catches the drop of drool in his mouth as it creeps down the front of the dummy. Yuck. Anyway, there's more than this going on in that concert footage, and it was a blast to get to see it. That said, what I really want to see someday is the School's Out concert that was filmed for posterity and aired on ABC's In Concert show in 1973- that was some wild shit. So if you're keeping score, see this, but select the concert only option. You'll thank me. B+.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)
Will someone please, please, stop Tim Burton before he remakes another '70s film? I'll get the good stuff out of the way early: this is a great-looking movie. Burton's usual goth schtick gets blended with some Dr. Seuss influence, and mercifully it takes. There's some nice computer animation in the credits, the Oompa-Loompa songs aren't terrible (and Deep Roy, playing all of them, is pretty good), although the score, like most Danny Elfman efforts, gets real monotonous after a while. Uh...and...well, that's about it. Don't know which is the most responsible for the utter failure of this film: Johnny Depp, who is a fine actor, often brilliant, but whose decision to play Willy Wonka as some sort of Michael Jackson-like, infantile airhead was one of the biggest mistakes ever made by an actor of his caliber; Burton, who still, after all these years and all the money, fame and women he's had can't get beyond the mindset of the lonely, alienated nerdy misfit who hates all the jocks and other people that he presumably once upon a time, long ago, felt inferior to or mistreated by; or the scriptwriters, both credited and uncredited, who took everything that made the book and later film so memorable and took it upon themselves to give us flat jokes, bland dialogue, and of course, Hollywood life lessons...in short, I thought this was a disaster. Makes Lemony Snicket look like a masterpiece of black comedy. And now, the inevitable comparison. One of the things that made the Gene Wilder film so memorable- Wilder's impetuous, mercurial, whimsical, but always in control and deceptively knowing portrayal of Wonka was the glue which held the 1971 version together. Depp's Wonka is none of these things. Never once do we get the notion that anything is going on in his head at all, and without the charisma that Wilder had, nothing else he tries to do works- not the catty asides to the even more hateful kids, not the idiotic flashback scenes in which we learn- and we didn't really care to know- about how he was abandoned by his father (a really stiff Christopher Lee) and forbidden to eat candy, the idea that he could be an innovator or master chocolatier, nothing. The kid actors were OK, nothing special, and it grated to see Burton take gum-chewer Violet Beauregard and make her into a overacheiving brat with a pushy Mom (just like the sorts that young Burton hated, I'm sure, easy targets). The fellow that played Charlie's Grandpa suffered in comparison with his predecessor, Jack Albertson, as well- he was just there, and barely at that. I was expecting the worst when I prepared to see this, and unfortunately I wasn't disappointed. I know this film and Burton has its/his admirers, and there are many Burton films I like a lot; Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, even Big Fish...but I just couldn't find much that worked for me in this one. Kinda like buying a million Wonka bars and not getting a golden ticket. I think Slugworth got out of the candy business and went into the motion picture racket, and financed this to get back at his rival. D+

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
I wasn't expecting much from this one, either- the Bat-armor just looked too much like Keaton's, and Christian Bale didn't excite me as the lead- but unlike Charlie, I was pleasantly surprised at how much actually worked. I liked the early scenes in Tibet, although anyone who knew anything at all about the comics would know who R'as Al Ghul really was- made me wish someone could make a Doc Savagefilm in this setting, played straight. Bale was really good in these early scenes; but he seems to lose interest as the picture goes on and by the end he's somnambulent. Katie Holmes was utterly miscast as the love interest; she just looked like a teenager and was impossible to take seriously. Cillian Murphy was very good as the Scarecrow- he gave a shifty, creepy performance and was very convincing. Other cast members: Michael Caine, understated as always as Alfred (but I kept hoping someone would ask him "what's it all about, Alfie?"); Morgan Freeman, playing Morgan Freeman playing Lucius Fox whose character thankfully gave us a plausible rationale for all of Batman's high-tech toys; Liam Neeson, solid as always. I was a bit disappointed in how little they gave JBS fave Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon to do; especially given that much of this was based on Batman: Year One. I liked the refreshing lack of oppressive gloom in Gotham City. I wish the script had been tighter; in their haste to give us the crash boom ending that all films of this stripe seem to demand, they didn't let little things like logic complicate things- how exactly did Batman manage to avoid getting splattered by the monorail cross-supports as he dangled along, attached by his cable to the runaway vehicle? Even more annoying was the increasingly common practice among Hollywood scriptwriters to overuse clumsy, obvious foreshadowing; you just know that this event or that word of wisdom will play a part in the ending, and that lazy, connect-the-dots sort of writing is aggravating. Still, I believe this one had its heart in the right place, and was overall entertaining. Not perfect by any stretch, but better than all but one of the '80s-'90s schlockfests, and I know I'm alone in my admiration for Batman Returns. Let's hope for a less lame title and a tighter script when the sequel rolls in. B+

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005)
Orlando Bloom was pretty good in the Lord of the Rings films; as Legolas, he was given a character that was interesting because he stood out in contrast from his other fellow company members, and he ran with it. Since then, they've tried and tried to make him compelling by having him play all sorts of leads and they've completely failed because even though he's a nice looking fella he has zero charisma. None. In a good company of actors, he's an asset. Expected to carry the film alone, he's a liability. In this Crusades-era Christians-vs.-Moslems saga, He tries his best, but he's about the fourth most interesting character, behind Ghassan Massoud's Saladin, Liam Neeson's Godfrey (his character's dad), Marton Csokas's villianous Guy de Lusignan, and David Thewlis' sardonic knight Hospitaler. Lots of "of courses" in this flick, too..."of course" Bloom rejects daddy's reconciliation and invitation offer, after the death of his wife, only to change his mind not long after; "of course" the only woman in the flick, who is "of course" promised to his enemy Guy, falls in love with him; "of course" the quest for self-redemption goes only as Hollywood would have it, with its quick, convenient and easy moralizing; and "of course" Bloom's character comes to understand and earn the respect of his opponents, if nothing else but because as the nominal hero of the thing, he's supposed to! What kind of entertainment product would it be if this wasn't the case and they avoided cliche? Oh well. This thing does get very interesting once the introductory folderol is done and we get to the meat of the tale: the Moslems, who lost Jerusalem centuries ago, want it back and a refreshingly nuanced Saladin has promised to get it back, and politics among the current residents has made it possible- and the siege of the city is quite a gripping spectacle. Ridley Scott, who performed a similar service on Gladiator a few years ago, makes this a convincing looking movie, with lots of authenticity. As huge spectacles set in the desert go, this is no Lawrence of Arabia, but it doesn't suck either. Too bad the scriptwriters felt the need to work in Harlequin romance schtick. B+

DAIMAJIN (1966)
This one used to air all the time on the Big Show on Nashville Channel 5, weekday afternoons in the '60s and '70s at 4 PM CST; I loved it when I was a kid, and hadn't seen it in ages. So, when I first subscribed to Netflix, I thought I'd see if it was out on DVD and available...and I was disappointed to find nothing. But. Y'see, I was looking for the title I was familiar with from those halcyon days of my youth, Majin: Monster of Terror, and unbeknownst to me it had been released on disc by its original name, Daimajin! So when I searched for that, I found out that not only was the first one available, but also the two sequels, which I hadn't seen! Well, I haven't gotten to the other two yet, but I quickly added the original to the ol' queue. Kind of a weird mix of a bunch of Japanese sagas like Seven Samurai, as an evil Warlord terrorizes a small village until a young maiden brings a huge stone statue of a warrior to life with her tears, and the statue goes on a Godzilla-style rampage through the town until it deals with the evildoers. It's the statue that makes it so memorable- the image of the towering, scowling samurai warrior made of stone is one that will stick with an impressionable young kid, especially one like me who is more impressionable than most, and it was a genius move on someone's part to incorporate the folklore aspect like they did. The film is a bit dull, although it's well acted and nicely filmed (looks like they had a bit of a budget to work with), until Daimajin takes center stage in the last third or so. It was made by Toho rivals Daiei, whose main claim to fame among Japanese monster buffs is as the studio of Gamera, the giant flying turtle. Well worth a look, if you've never seen it. A-

It's getting late, and I've got at least five more films to discuss. Oh well, stay tuned for Johnny Bacardi Vs. the World Crime League, coming soon!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


First American Gothic, then Brisco County, and now...THIS!

I think I just came.

No, that will be after Strange Luck gets ITS DVD release...

Thanks to Augie, who broke the news to me in the Brisco comments thread below.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Crazy busy weekend, so once again I've promised posts I couldn't deliver. But one thing I can always seem to find time for is WHAT I'M GETTING THIS WEEK (AND LAST) PER THE NEW DIAMOND SHIPPING LIST!

Special Falcons-Saints halftime edition.

POWERS #15
NAT TURNER #2
SURROGATES #3
ROCK N ROLL ONE SHOT
ULTIMATES 2 #9
GOTHAM CENTRAL #38
JONAH HEX #2
SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #2
JINGLE BELLE: THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (woo hoo!)
HAWAIIAN DICK THE LAST RESORT #3 (double woo hoo!)
100 BULLETS #67
DMZ #2
LOCAL #2

Missing is

LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 #15; it's on my unshipped orders list but I know it hit stores last week because I saw it in my LCS, oh irony of ironies. Gotta get this straightened out!

I've also got the FUSED ONE SHOT courtesy the wonderful folks at Boom!; I'll review it ASAP.

Back to the game! Man, I'll tell ya- the Falcons tackle like they weigh 80 lbs. and everybody else weighs 300.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Another great one gone, although you can't really call it unexpected: RIP Richard Pryor.

As a young boy in the Sixties, growing up in a Southern Kentucky family that wasn't exactly what you could consider racially sensitive (although, believe you me, there were far far worse people out there in our area), Pryor was regarded as kinda dangerous and threatening- not in a, say, Malcolm X or Farrakhan way but just as someone who the kids shouldn't listen to. So I remember seeing his appearances on TV and thinking he was funny, but I didn't make a point of standing up and saying so. Then, as a teenager, I started hanging with older kids who had bootleg 8-tracks of black comedy artists like Redd Foxx and Pryor, and this stuff was filthy...and hilarious. Not long after that, we started getting and listening to Cheech and Chong and Pryor's overground comedy albums, and That Nigger's Crazy and ...Is It Something I Said? blew us all away. We were constantly listening to and quoting "Wino Dealing With Dracula", "Have Your Ass Home By Eleven", and the "Mudbone" routines. Pryor was a hero for all of us 17-year-old kids, regardless of our color. Also at about that time, his movie career was in full swing, and for about a five year stretch there everything he appeared in was gold, especially Silver Streak, in which he stole the movie from not only Gene Wilder but Patrick McGoohan; Uptown Saturday Night, The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings, and Blue Collar as well as some outstanding concert videos a bit later. I remember both of his TV series as well- the controversial, ill-fated Richard Pryor Show from 1977 (saw that infamous "Black Death" skit) and the much more tame but also more imaginative and warm Saturday morning show Pryor's Place from 1983. Of course, it wasn't long before his fortunes soon declined due to some astoundingly bad script choices (Superman III? (shudder)), increasing drug abuse which culminated in that famous freebasing accident, and the MS which robbed him of his motor skills in recent years, making him a noble but sad figure.

From "Eulogy": "Life is not the ultimate test. The ultimate test is whether your ass will survive Death. Nobody we know has passed this test, least of all this sorry mother."
And now, that Saturday morning staple, JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PIGSKIN PROGNOSTICATIONS!

Last week, a not-bad 13-3. Season to date: 117-60, .661.

The disclaimer: THESE PICKS ARE FOR (my own, and presumably your) AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY! DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT TAKE THESE PREDICTIONS AND BET YOUR HARD-EARNED OR SOFT-EARNED MONEY ON THEM, BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW ANY MORE ABOUT THE NFL THAN THE AVERAGE FAN, AND HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE INCORRECT QUITE FREQUENTLY! AND YOU DON'T KNOW ME- I MIGHT BE CRAZY, OR F*CKING WITH YOU!

PITTSBURGH over Chicago. C'mon, da Bears are good, but run-the-table good?
CINCINNATI over Cleveland
TENNESSEE over Houston
INDIANAPOLIS over Jacksonville. Take the Jag-wires if you're betting- the spread is something like 16 points!
NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo
OAKLAND over the NY Jets. JETS stands for Just End The Season.
MINNESOTA over St. Louis. Mike Tice is looking like a good coach all of a sudden. In other news, there has been a two foot snowstorm in Hell.
CAROLINA over Tampa Bay
NY GIANTS over Philadelphia
SEATTLE over San Fransisco. Another game that you might want to bet against the spread.
ARIZONA over Washington
DENVER over Baltimore
KANSAS CITY over Dallas
SAN DIEGO over Miami
GREEN BAY over Detroit
ATLANTA over New Orleans. They'd BETTER win.

Last week, 12-4. Season to date, 129-64, .668. I may have accidentally miscounted and added a game, either to my wins or losses. And I don't care to go back through the last two weeks' worth of blogposts to catch my mistake, either, so my record, for the record, is officially + or - 1.

Oh, and in fantasy I've won 2 straight in the money league, making my record 4-9 with one game left. In fact, since I quit posting my results I haven't lost, and that's placed my lock on the #1 pick in next year's draft in jeopardy so here you go. In the freebie league, I finished 9-3-1 and in 2nd place. Our playoffs begin this week.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Please stand by for the following retraction:

When I posted the list of "comics I'll be getting this week according to the Diamond Shipping List", I failed to take into account that when I placed the order with DCBS for the comics that will be coming out in December, I decided to save about $4 and get my books shipped every two weeks instead of every week. But I had forgotten that it was starting this month. So no comics for me this week! Which also means no comics for me to review this week, either. But boy, will I have a big'un next Friday...

I did get a package from the wonderful folks at Oni Press, but unfortunately, they sent me copies of comics I already had bought, including Local #1, Polly and the Pirates #2, and Banana Sunday #4. Didn't I tell ya? They also sent me a copy of Off Road, the GN by Sean Murphy that I enjoyed a lot when I read it in B&W preview form. I'm beginning to think that I should perhaps come up with some sort of contest or something to give away some of the duplicate comics I've begun to acquire over the last year or so. So far, I've yet to come up with anything.

Here's something amusing, found at CzelticGirl's: Serenity, as reenacted by hand puppets. Beware of spoilers, if you haven't seen the film. And if you haven't, well, I hate you.

One thing I hope to do before the weekend is over is a new Johnny B Heart Netflix. I've seen several movies since the last time I did one, and I think I should devote a paragraph or three to them. Of course, a lot of it depends on how much computer time I have- we're going Christmas shopping tomorrow, I have to work Sunday morning, and then of course there is football on Sunday afternoon. But my beloved underacheiving Falcons don't play till Monday night, so I might just do some blogging that afternoon. We shall see.

Pirates. And aliens. Everybody loves pirates and aliens, right? And someone's launched a new webcomic with that very title. Go look at it, m'kay?

That's all I can think of for now. Good night, Austin, Texas, wherever you are.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Just wanted to note that today is the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.

Yasurakani nemure, John.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


I don't read Augie DeBlieck's Various and Sundry often enough, and as a result I miss all sorts of interesting news. Such as this tidbit, which makes my day:

THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR. IS COMING OUT ON DVD! WITH NEW FOOTAGE!!

Maybe, just maybe, there is a God.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogger's been on the fritz, no surprise there, and it's late so I need to get some sleep...so what am I doing? Am I forsaking the call of the blog spot template, thinking that no one's gonna read whatever I write (or no more than usual, anyway) so forget it and go tobed? NO! I'm blogging while listening to the Seahawks blowing out the Eagles in the other room.

And continuing that time-honored tradition here at the Show, a little thing I like to call WHAT I'M GETTING THIS WEEK ACCORDING TO THE NEW DIAMOND SHIPPING LIST!

GOTHAM CENTRAL #38
JONAH HEX #2
SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #2
POWERS #15
ULTIMATES 2 #9
LOVE & ROCKETS VOL 2 #15
NAT TURNER #2
SURROGATES #3

And maybe, just maybe, I'll saunter into the comics shop and get

HARD TIME SEASON TWO #1: I got real curious about this due to positive word-of-mouth, but then I saw where DC made the odd decision to release the trade collection of Vol. 1 with only half the story therein. I probably would have picked up a complete collection, or both together if they had felt it necessary to release two, but I don't think I want to read the first half dozen or so issues of V1 and then start up with V2 #1. There's a teeny gap there. Game time decision, I guess- I would imagine the V1 back issues aren't especially difficult to find...

You should buy, but I probably won't due to budget concerns

CHARLES BURNS LIBRARY VOL 1: EL BORBAH SC

I read most of these in Heavy Metal years ago, and enjoyed them tremendously. Burns is one of the modern greats. But I just don't have the $17 right now. Maybe when my LCS has their big pre-Christmas 12-day sale I'll get this. Maybe even Black Hole, too!

DEMO COLLECTION TP

I toldja about this yesterday.

TAROT: WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE #31

...nah, I'm just messin' with ya.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It's back-COMICS COMMENTARY!
What I got and what I thought, week of November 30


Since LAST CALL is now yesterday's news, and I still have that compulsion to inflict my opinions on others, I'm resurrecting the franchise.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDEMO (COLLECTED)
S/A:Brian Wood, S/A:Becky Cloonan
AiT-PlanetLar, $19.95
My, how time flies. Seems like only yesterday when DEMO and Street Angel were the talk of the Comics Blogosphereiverse, and now here's the former, all in one handy location, to read as one continuous series of short stories if one so desires. I took the occasion to reread nearly all of them, and skimmed a couple that I remembered more vividly. I will freely admit, as far as Wood's contribution goes, it is a testament to his breadth and imagination as a writer, giving us a diverse set of narratives, but a set which works very well as a set and always maintain an internal integrity. As when I read them individually, the stories which still worked the best for me were #5's "Girl You Want", in which a young woman whose ability is to be seen as others wish to see her ironically develops a crush on the one person who can actually see her as she is, much to her eventual regret; #8's "Mixtape", a bittersweet account of a young man's reaction to a dead lover's mix tape and a dialogue with her memory-? Shade-? Anyway, for once, the ambiguity which Wood injects into nearly every story worked very well in that case. #3's "Bad Blood", with its surprising ending, was the first one which really made me sit up and take notice, and #11's "Midnight to Six" injected some much-needed humor into the run. On the negative side, the grisly revenge fantasy "What You Wish For" still didn't work, leaving me with a lot of questions that had no satisfactory answers; #9's "Breaking Up" was well-done, but not a real enjoyable read as it subjected us to a lot of rancor and desperation...plus I had that age-related disconnect I tend to suffer from sometimes when it comes to stories about teens and twentysomethings and their world-shaking relationship issues; and #7's "One Shot, One Miss" seemed to play fast and loose with the reality of what military service is actually like in order to make a statement, which blunted its impact. One thing was undeniable, though- DEMO was really Becky Cloonan's coming-out party, in which she proved once and for all that she is a creator to be reckoned with as she gracefully zigzagged from style to style, but never came across as being imitative or lacking inspiration. She breathed life into every one of these often frustrating narratives, and it's difficult to imagine any of these stories by any other artist working as well. If for some reason you passed on the series in its initial release, now's your chance to experience it in one sitting. You'll be frustrated sometimes, you'll be moved and engaged even more...but you won't regret it. A

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usCOLONIA: ON INTO THE GREAT LANDS TPB
S/A: Jeff Nicholson
AiT-PlanetLar, $12.95
Now here's a strange duck, and I'm not necessarily referring to the talking golden egg-laying one which is part of this book's cast- but the entire concept as I understand it, which is that this is the ongoing saga of a young present-day man named Jeff, who along with his two uncles, apparently has some sort of seafaring mishap on a fishing trip and washes ashore only to encounter pirates, lost conquistadors, other assorted magical beings, as well as intelligent fish that arrange themselves inside of clothes and walk upright on land as fish-men of a sort along with the duck which befriends him. Not having read the first collection, I was a little at a loss at first when trying to read this; but after a while I just sort of went along and let myself get caught up in what comes across as a surreal succession of events in place of a narrative; it's like someone's particularly potent and feverish dream which takes place in an exotic, faraway locale- but still a familiar one, at least to anyone who's seen a pirate movie. And it's all done so cheerfully and open-faced, that the dreamlike impression is reinforced even more. Little Nemo worked a lot like this, unless I'm mistaken. The book's biggest liability, for me anyway, is the one thing that creates that cheerfulness: the bland, inoffensive but quite primitive-looking art, which looks to me a lot like Scott McCloud or Paul Chadwick drawing left-handed. Or right-handed, if they're left-handed. You know what I mean. Hardly offputting, and I will always respect anyone who's committed enough to not only write something this elaborate and imaginative, but draw it as well...but I still wonder how good this would be if he had an artist that was as accomplished with the pencil and pen as he was with the wordsmithing and concept. All in all, an engaging epic fantasy that I wish was differently illustrated, but has me curious just the same and I can recommend it to anyone seeking epic fantasies of a more cerebral nature. B+

FELL #3
S: Warren Ellis, A: Ben Templesmith
Image, $1.99
Our boy Richard goes to buy a new suit in a Snowtown thrift shop, and winds up getting more than he bargained for as he has to confront a suicide bomber. Ellis cuts the story to the bone this time out, and the lack of digression or diversion really enables us to get into the flow and makes this the best issue yet of this really fascinating series. In contrast, Templesmith's art is loose enough to let the story breathe and his skill with caricature gives Ellis' story verisimilitude in a way that few artists can; Sinkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Kurtzman, and the like. Lofty company, and perhaps if he keeps improving it won't look so strange to see his name up with theirs. A

NEIL GAIMAN'S NEVERWHERE #5
S: Mike Carey, A: Glenn Fabry
DC/Vertigo, $2.99
As has been the case with the previous four issues, the main attraction for me regarding this title (the story of which I've already read in its novelized form) is the meticulous, precise, and expansive artwork of Glenn Fabry, beautifully colored by Tanya and Richard Horie. He's doing an absolutely marvelous job of depicting these twice-told events, really making it his own, and absolutely nobody's paying any attention because, I suppose, one of the Big Two is putting it out. More's the pity. A

B.P.R.D.: THE BLACK FLAME #4
S: Mike Mignola/John Arcudi, A: Guy Davis
Dark Horse, $2.99
Last issue was the first one which seemed to have its act together, and fortunately this one continues the momentum as the Bureau deals with the apparent death of Roger the Homonculus and the swarming frog-critters, led by the Nevermen-ish title character with his armored suit and burning black skull perched on top. Abe Sapiens also finally enters the fray after what seems like an eternity of brooding and hanging out with ghosts. Almost as fast-paced and fun as a good proper Hellboy yarn, and as usual exquisitely drawn by Guy Davis, who's in a monstrous, if you'll excuse the expression, groove. A-

THE LOSERS #30
S: Andy Diggle, A: Jock
DC/Vertigo, $2.99
Things crash, explode and burn towards the inevitable final issue as we get one surprising death, one surprising and disappointing apparent resurrection, and a betrayal that really shouldn't come as any surprise if you've been paying attention. Shame it has to go, but at least it's going out in high style. A-

F.PAUL WILSON'S THE KEEP #2
S: Wilson, A: Matthew Smith
IDW, $3.99
Wilson, for his part, is giving us a no-frills straight-up adaptation of his novel, which I read about 24 years ago (and liked). Well, i don't remember the fortune-teller episode, but the old memory ain't what it used to be. It's Smith's art which remains the problem- he's embellishing his Mignolaesque style with a stiff, blocky ink line, giving it almost a woodcut appearance, and I remember seeing his stuff and liking it a lot better when he was not coming across as jagged and he was making an effort to distinguish the features of his figures, specifically the men, who all look like pudgy white guys with bad combovers. The monochrome color scheme doesn't do it any favors, either. B-

SILENT DRAGON #5
S: Andy Diggle, A: Leinil Yu
DC/Wildstorm, $2.99
I had such high hopes for this when it was announced; Diggle, who was so good on The Losers, would seem like a natural for these futuristic ninja/Yakuza goings on. Yu pretty much holds up his end of the deal, giving us a slick, professional art job but Diggle tries to cram too much in at once, and the story becomes incoherent when he and Yu can't get in sync. Dramatic moments which should have resonance just sorta lay there because we don't really empathise enough with any of these hastily sketched characters, and the big action scenes miss as often as they hit. Wish I could say I was really looking forward to the grande finale, but honestly half the time I can't recall what happened in the issue previous, and I expect this to be the case one month from now. One of the biggest disappointments of the year, for me, anyway. C+

STRANGE GIRL #5
S: Rick Remender, A: Eric Nguyen
Image, $2.99
Remender ups the ante on his post-rapture fantasy, giving us a new set of characters in the town where the title character, her demon buddy and a reacquainted childhood friend were heading, "Dead Western"- I mean "The Basilica". They mistake our Girl for an angel, y'see, and let them all in...and unbeknownst to any of them, a posse of demons is hard in pursuit. For me, this is still interesting, and will remain so as long as Remender keeps handling the Girl as well as he has. Artist Nguyen is beginning to rein in his hyperbusy tendencies, too, and that helps a lot. B+

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #12
S: Mark Waid, A: Barry Kitson, Ken Lashley, (Mick?) Gray and (Drew?) Geraci
DC, $2.99
I still think Waid has handled this whole storyline clumsily, but when he's on, this book can be good, as in the scenes in which Brainiac takes on Elysion of "Terror Firma" (ouch) with an unexpected ally, the breakout of Timber Wolf courtesy of Princess Projectra, and even the scene in which Cosmic Boy addresses the multitudes mentally, complete with Jesus Christ pose as he does so, are nicely done. I'm still not crazy about Kitson's art, it's as stiff as always- but it does service the story well enough so it gets a pass. For the second straight issue, we're given a backup story which is a bit of a drag as Lightning Lad attempts to pitch woo to Saturn Girl by giving her a Legion rally speech of some sort. It's dull and kinda dumb. B+

I also received THE EXPATRIATE #4, but since I haven't been able to get #3 yet I won't read it until I do.