Sunday, January 29, 2006

Time once more for
THE BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE!
Ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous meandering observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of January 11-27!



NORTHWEST PASSAGE #'s 1 & 2 (Oni Press)
S/A: Scott Chantler
This one completely slipped under my radar, despite a recommendation from my friend Mike Cary- it's early 60's Disney-esque adventure, starring fur trappers and Native Americans vs. villainous French soldiers set in the Canadian Northwest of 1755 and written with historical integrity, as well as action/adventure and drama, in mind...and while you'd think the Phil Foglio-by-way-of-Jason Bone cartoon-style art would undercut it, far from it- Chantler has a deft hand for drawing faces and body language, well capable of getting across heroic or villainous, simply by virtue of the way he poses someone or the type of line he uses. There's an assurance about his stuff which really gets the essence of his protagonists across. He doesn't scrimp on backgrounds, either- his woods and forts are all utterly convincing. This flags just a wee bit in the story department; all the characters are a bit broadly written, kinda predictable and not as fully developed as one would like, but heck- it's early in the series and I have a feeling that will be remedied soon. Nitpicking aside, this is shaping up as grand high adventure in a fairly novel setting, and I can't wait for the third volume. The second volume will be released soon, I understand. A

LITTLE STAR #'s 1-6 (Oni Press)
S/A: Andi Watson
Another of Watson's drearily earnest slice-of-life stories, this time focusing on a young husband and father who dotes on his wife and rather bratty child, as he works part-time painting detail on china (perhaps he should commiserate with the poor schlub of Breakfast After Noon) as well as assuming his share of the parenting duties to aid his working spouse. In each issue a small crisis comes to the fore; in one, the little girl gets lost in a department store, causing some nicely done tension; in another, Dad goes for a recently-opened fulltime position, a step up but Mom doesn't dig it because he didn't discuss it with her first...between wifey constantly shooting him down and the kid constantly rejecting him in favor of Mumsy, ya had to feel for the poor schnook, who still waxes all starry-eyed about his wonderful wife and their beautiful, gorgeous offspring. Anyway, I don't know- I've been through the childrearing thing, twice, and I don't remember it being this much of a hassle (and yes, I picked up kids at the sitter, changed dirty diapers, fixed meals, etc.), and it kinda ends without really resolving anything, which makes me wonder why it was ever created in the first place. Don't get me wrong- I LOVE Watson's excellent expressionistic art, simple but never simplistic, and I'm a big fan of his Skeleton Key, Geisha, and Love Fights series. He should be commended for trying things that don't involve super-people with fantastic abilities fighting each other. But all the good intentions in the world didn't make Breakfast After Noon, a downbeat account of an unemployed man in England (and read by me when I was unemployed myself, further adding to the gloom) or this any more enjoyable to read. Make no mistake- this is high quality work...but I won't be rereading this anytime soon, if ever. B

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #13 (DC)
S: Mark Waid, Stuart Moore; A: Barry Kitson, Mick Gray, Ken Lashley, Paul Neary, Amanda Connor
I hate to say it, but at the end of a big, thirteen-issue epic it's generally not a good thing when your first reaction is "Is that it?" Despite some highlights here and there, this has been a mostly dull read as far as I'm concerned, and even though the path taken was convoluted enough, the end result was just too pat and simplistic. As always with the Legion, regardless of who's writing, the character interaction is the key, and Waid's done a good-to-fair job- enough to keep me reading for a few more months anyway. Perhaps an artist with a more lively style could have nudged this into the realm of above-average; Kitson's earnest but plodding and stiff art is like reading fumetti with wax dummies. We also get a rather pointless short story by Stuart Moore and some who-dat and another of the cutesy letters pages which has the good fortune of being illustrated by Amanda Connor, an artist who does have a lively and engaging style- say, I wonder if she'd be interested in taking over the main feature? And then inspire Waid to bring back Kinetix? Hey, I can dream, can't I?
C+

LOSERS #31 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Andy Diggle A: Jock
Geez, if Diggle didn't have any more story than this, I wish he hadn't felt it necessary to drag it out so long! He almost seems like he's lost interest and is ready to move on. Anyway, this penultimate (there's that word again, heh) is half infodump (mostly dealing with the far-fetched beginnings of bad guy Max) and half shootout at Max's oil drilling station, with the Losers re-enacting a bloody version of "Ten Little Indians" and the smart, sharp "Best Action Movie/Spy Thriller That Hollywood Never Made" days are seeming like a hundred years ago. None of this is Jock's fault, however- he's as good as always. Maybe Diggle's got one more neat twist up his sleeve. I certainly hope so. B+

LITTLE GLOOMY'S SUPER SCARY MONSTER SHOW #3 (Slave Labor/Amaze Ink)
S: Landry Quinn Walker; A: Eric Jones
Gold Key comics are alive and well! Wednesday Addams-ish Little Gloomy and crew won't Push Comics Forward (TM), but by golly these sure are enjoyable and often very amusing little vignettes involving kid versions of those classic Universal monsters, along with possibly the funniest of all, Carl Cthulhu, a preschool-age Lovecraftian monster whose destiny is to consume the Earth when he grows up, but right now he loves kittens and bunnies and being nice. This all reads like extended pitches for animated shows, and in fact Gloomy and crew and her creators have been welcomed into the loving embrace of none other than Disney, who features the gang in their digest sized Disney Adventures publication. And good for them. This is as enjoyable as Kim Possible, or any of the other Mouse House properties. Where this will go, who knows. A-

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #2 (DC)
S: Grant Morrison A: Frank Quitely
That darn Lois and her constant snooping! When will she ever learn, tsk tsk. Once more, Grant is just being Grant and giving us a more clever version of those old Bridwell/Boring scenarios of yore- the kind of Superman story he would want to read, as the conventional wisdom has it, and why would we ask for anything more? For those who delight in sheer imagination, presented in a straightforward fashion with perhaps a hint of a wink. Quitely is stellar again, but I wish he'd clean up his ink line- it's gotten a bit unbecomingly scratchy and not as full as I remember it being in the past, and what the hell is up with Superman's neck, which is almost as long as his arm sometimes and just as thick as his waist? A-

SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #3 (DC)
S: Grant Morrison; A: Freddie E. Williams III
I still fail to see what the hell this all has to do with the Big SS Picture; it's just a not-bad Elseworlds Kirby's Fourth World story with uninspired, awkward-looking art. Oh well, repeat the mantra: Trust Grant. Trust Grant. Trust Grant. Trust Grant. C-

TESTAMENT #2 (DC/Vertigo)
S:Douglas Rushkoff; A: Liam Sharp
Strangely enough, I was more interested in the Vertigoized Bible story than I was the Orwellian goings-on in the "real" time. I appreciate what Rushkoff was trying to do, but he drug it out over the entire length of the comic and the only reaction I had to the climactic event was "Finally." Somehow I don't think that was what he had in mind. That said, I'm still interested enough to stick with this for a while, just to see where it's going. C+

PLANETARY #24 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Warren Ellis; A: John Cassaday
More infodumping, probably necessary since most of us are probably a bit fuzzy on what's happening with this perpetually tardy title. No real revelations, and no shocking cliffhanger, really, and when the next issue comes out, hopefully before Labor Day, something will happen then. Cassaday's art is impeccable as usual.
A-

HELLBLAZER #216 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Denise Mina; A: Leonard Manco
Whothawhatthahell is that woman on the cover? Tim Bradstreet, please come home, all is forgiven! This issue marks the debut of novelist Denise Mina, and it kinda comes across as a practice run, a clearing of the throat if you will, as she recycles Standard Constantine Plot #287: a poor fool gets in over his head when he uses magic, and comes to Conjob for assistance. Which never turns out well. She does it as skillfully as you would hope, prompting me to believe that once she hits her stride, perhaps she'll be able to breathe some life into this mostly moribund book. Artist Leo Manco, kids, (as I keep saying) ain't what he usedta be. B-

LUCIFER #70 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Zander Cannon
Nice little story, kind of a epilogue to the cataclysmic events of the previous issue, illustrated by Smax's Zander Cannon, whose somewhat underdrawn style takes some getting used to. Fortunately, the unassuming script bails him out, as we revisit some almost-forgotten characters from Lucifer's alternate universe in a storytelling contest. As always, rewarding for longtime readers, all others, caveat emptor. A-

BAMBI & HER PINK GUN VOL 2 (Digital Manga)
S/A: Atsushi Kaneko
Bambi's back, still trying to return that kidnapped kid to the "Old Men" who hired her to return him from the grotesque vampire Elvis takeoff "Gabba King". Thing is, the King has put a humongous price on her head, and all sorts of unsavory characters are busting their asses to collect. This is as violent, with lots of globs of blood, brains and guts galore, and fast-paced as Vol. 1 was-and often as weird and funny, too: Gabba's Col. Tom looks like Robert Blake in Lost Highway crossed with Eddie Munster. But in his zeal to give us the ol' Mad Max-style ultra-violence, Kaneko sometimes gives us layouts that are cluttered and convoluted, and that kinda takes away from the thrill-ride aspect when we're having to go back and puzzle out exactly what's happening in this or that panel. Still, it's worth the effort, and this remains the best manga I've ever read this side of Planetes Vol. 1 A-

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel)
S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Kevin Maguire
Well, this was fun. DeMatteis and Giffen are always fun. But since hindsight is 20/20, this should have been a one-shot because it seemed to drag out a bit too long, even at 5 issues. The real star of the show was Kevin Maguire, whose art was as facile and witty as he always usually is. And for the last time, his Umar...hello, NURSE! B-

NEXT WAVE #1 (Marvel)
S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
Well, Warren does have a sense of humor, doesn't he! That isn't deadpan and nasty! Who knew? In what could very well be interpreted as a pisstaking rejoinder to the whole Seven Soldiers project, Ellis takes five obscure Marvel do-gooders and sticks 'em together as a team built to counter the not-so-benevolent machinations of the Beyond Corporation and their apparent right arm, another of the multitudes of Marvel covert government groups called H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort). This is Ellis at his best, taking potshots at a number of targets (both comics-world and real-world) and engaging us even more than he does in Fell- he hasn't had this light a touch since the good old days of Stormwatch. That Fing Fang Foom sequence is already classic. Although Morrison might argue, right now it sure seems to be Warren E's world, and we're all just living in it. And as always, when Ellis is at his best, he has a gifted artist collaborator- this time it's Stuart Immonen, who debuts a different style in this, one that's more angular and animation-inspired and which strives for a less painstakingly realistic approach than he's employed in the past- and it works very well. Promising debut, and remember when DC had all the lighthearted superguy books and Marvel was all grim and dreary? Things change, huh! A

OK, that's it for tonight. I still have a good half dozen to go, and I'll try to get them done tomorrow evening.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Yeah, OK, here it is Saturday night and I haven't posted a damn thing, even though I've been home all day. I suck. But you knew that already, didn't ya? Wellll...I would do the review column, but I'm not finished with the huge stack o'comics I got Friday night! I've been catching up with a lot of blogs, and leaving some comments here and there, and I did post a couple of things over at the LJ, so the day wasn't a total loss. I also took the time to do some actual housework, and watched one of the films I got yesterday from Netflix: 2046. Don't worry, it will be included in the next Johnny B Heart. Also had to do some grocery shopping.

I got my copy of Mott The Hoople Live: 30th Anniversary Edition today, and have been enjoying it tremendously. In its original, truncated vinyl version, it was always a sort of choppy, disjointed experience and a sad sendoff for one of the best and most short-lived bands of the Glam era. In this new, remastered/restored, 2-CD edition, it just may be one of the best live albums EVAR.

I haven't forgotten about Beowulf Dragon Slayer, either.

But as one Miss O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow...tomorrow is another day." Right now, I'm going to sit back down in the living room and finish Vol. 2 of Bambi and Her Pink Gun.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The soon to be legendary first Comics Blogger Poll results are now up and awaiting your perusal right here. Not a lot of major surprises, though, proving perhaps that as a group we're not as different as some hold.

Best Artist went to Frank Quitely. Can't really complain, although I thought #2 guy J.H. Williams III had a better year all things considered. I was surprised at James Jean's relatively low showing, tied for #11 with Jock.

Best Writer? Three guesses. But again, I can't complain because there may be writers with more imagination, and there may be writers with more distinctive voices than Our Man Grant, but no one this side of that lovably eccentric Moore fella combines the two so well. Kinda disappointing to see Mr. Generic Writer himself, Brian Vaughan, come in so high- but I guess that just demonstrates how out of the loop I am, I suppose. I don't get his appeal at all.

Best Ongoing Title was also the Biggest Surprise: Fell. Don't get me wrong, I like Fell a lot- but was it really better than all the other contenders, even Warren Ellis' own Desolation Jones? Oh well. Bit surprised to see Love & Rockets as high (tied #4) as it was- there really isn't as much buzz for that book as there used to be, especially in its late 80's heyday, and honestly, while it's still very high quality it just doesn't have the same sugar that it had back then, almost as if the Bros. are doing it because nobody much was interested in their other non-L&R releases. And very surprising was Legion of Super Heroes clocking in at #10; are they reading the same series I'm reading?

Best Original Graphic Novel went to Top 10: The Forty-Niners, and I'll have to take a pass because I haven't read it yet. I'll be getting it in softcover in a month or so. Otherwise, no real complaints.

Best Mini-Series or One-Shot: All those who voted for Infinity Crisis (#2) should be banned from next year's. Would the esteemed critics for the Village Voice vote for Celine Dion in their Pazz and Jop poll? I think NOT! Anyway, Klarion, which I've read, and Villains United, which I won't, tied for #1. Whatever. Disappointing: the high representation for all the Infinity spinoffs and Paul Chadwick's turgid Concrete: The Human Dilemma, and low showings by the likes of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Smoke, Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires and even Banana Sunday.

No quibbles with the choice for Best Collection of Previously Printed Material. I haven't gotten around to reading the entirety of Black Hole yet; I sampled a couple of issues early in the run but wasn't especially engaged. It might read better collected. I'm ashamed to say that I had forgotten about the 100% trade; or to be more precise, I was thinking it came out in 2004. I would have voted for it if I hadn't let it slip my mind; I really liked that one a lot. Good to see WE3 represented as well, but that's no surprise. I was a bit disappointed to see Kane: The Untouchable Rico Costas... only racked up 2 points, and while I was no less happy to see it there, I wish someone else had seen fit to include Bambi and Her Pink Gun.

Oh well, though there were bugs in the process (and no, I don't have any better ideas, thanks for asking), it was fun to participate in the voting and I hope it becomes a yearly tradition. Thanks to Chris Tamarri for organizing it and seeing fit to include my unworthy self.
Just got my shipment notice from DCBS, so here's the list of what I'll be getting, and reviewing, soon:

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #13
LOSERS #31
LITTLE GLOOMY'S SUPER SCARY MONSTER SHOW #3
ALL STAR SUPERMAN #2
SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #3
TESTAMENT #2
PLANETARY #24
HELLBLAZER #216
LUCIFER #70
BAMBI & HER PINK GUN VOL 2 (Woo hoo!)
DEFENDERS #5
POLLY & THE PIRATES #3
NEXT WAVE #1
DAREDEVIL #81
BPRD THE BLACK FLAME #6
CATWOMAN #51
LOCAL #3
SURROGATES #4

I also got a run of Andi Watson's latest slice-of-life series Little Star, and the first Northwest Passage GN, as well as an advance of the second, and I'll be holding forth about them sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

JOHNNY B HEART NETFLIX! in which I provide some observations and comments on films I've seen lately mostly through the auspices of that most wonderful of online video rental services, but also on TV (marked with **) as well.

THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974)**
At left is the poster for the movie, which I just LOVE. Click to see it in detail. Wish I could find one, and I might just have to look one of these days. Parallax is a 1974 political-conspiracy theory thriller which stars Warren Beatty, giving perhaps the best performance I've ever seen from him, who plays a newspaper reporter who slowly learns about a covert operation which is turning out assassins to shape world events. The image represents a situation at the end, in which a group of people at a political rally are assigned to turn those flash cards which make up images- you've seen 'em. In this film, the presidential candidate whose life is threatened is preparing to speak at a rally, and the card display is part of the show. The cards depict Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln (I think...the classic presidents, anyway), and the candidate himself. But the poster designer used it to beautifully illustrate the underlying theme of the film- the sinister machinations of the shadowy minions that some believe influence world events. The movie also features a great Clockwork Orange-Ludovico treatment type montage that Beatty is subject to at one point in which random idyllic Norman Rockwell-style scenes, horrible violent acts and the like are quick-cut interspersed with words which state "happiness", "mother", "love" and so on. Several times in the succession of images we get a Kirby illustration of Thor, along with a Kirby monster from one of the old Marvel monster books. I suppose Thor is there to suggest the fair-haired Nordic warrior stereotype, which makes sense in that context. Anyway, it's a challenging scene, one which draws the viewer in and forces him to experience the same reactions that Beatty's character does. I thought this was a sharp, smart film, and was very impressed with Beatty. Another '70s film, like Jaws and Taking of Pelham One Two Three, that I can't believe I haven't seen till now. God, I hope they never remake it. Interesting note; one of the screenwriters was none other than Lorenzo Semple, Jr. of Batman TV show fame! A

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (1968)
I've been reading the new Bob Spitz Beatles book lately, and of course part of it deals with the genesis and filming of this. Frankly, it's amazing- not only the complex series of coincidences and events that had to break just right as they ascended to fame, but also extraordinary that, after they had achieved the toppermost of that poppermost and internal as well as external hassles and rancor and strife and drugs and the natural letdown after gaining their goal began to override and affect everything these gifted men did, that they were able to do anything together at all, let alone make some of the most imaginative and satisfying music in the history of popular music. Tour was Paul McCartney's baby, conceived before Brian Epstein died but not realized until after his unfortunate demise, and he rode herd over everyone to get it filmed, much to his mates' chagrin. They mostly couldn't really be bothered and obviously thought it was silly as hell- well, John and George, mostly, Ringo was always game for a film...and they're right. This is a mess, a mish-mash of goofy sub-Pythonesque comedy and red-eyed 60's psychedelica, written and filmed on the fly on a minimal budget on what appears to be Super 8 stock and it shows. Critics savaged it when it aired the day after Christmas in England, another nail in the slow-building coffin of the Beatles story. But this is not to say that it's completely worthless- there are still some wonderful songs like "I Am The Walrus" and "The Fool on the Hill", pastorically lovely despite its self-pitying tone- and these musical interludes are well staged, especially "Your Mother Should Know" which features the boys in white tuxes in a big Busby Berkeley-type production number. The bits with Ringo and "his" Aunt Jessie are hit and miss, but the sequence with John shoveling spaghetti at her in a dream that will remind you of the yet-to-come Python antics. There was also a small revelation for me, in a scene which shows all the men on the tour taking in a strip show, and music is provided by the Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band, who perform a number called "Death Cab For Cutie"- immediately I cried "Oh my God! That's where that band my son and his girlfriend love got their name!" Overdue epiphanies aside, I think everyone should see this once, and the hardcore will sit through it over and over. This was my second time, in case you're wondering. C+

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005)**
John Carpenter made this perfectly good low-budget urban crime thriller back in 1976, and since Hollywood can't leave well enough alone, someone got the bright idea to remake it and jazz it up for the Aughts. The original is better still, but this isn't a total disaster, mostly benefiting from nice acting jobs from Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne, who's gonna have to be renamed Laurence Whaleburne if he puts on any more pounds. It's as loud and noisy as all action movies these days apparently must be, but it's at least not dull and if you don't think about it too hard you'll get caught up in it like I did until the ending, which has a few too many twists and doesn't seem to hold together very well. B-

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2005)
Oh, god, is this a twisted movie. Using the puppet animation from such fondly remembered childhood epic series like Supercar and Thunderbirds Are Go!, South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone make fun of anything and everything, liberal left and conservative right alike, and it's just as freewheeling and scattershot as Orgazmo was and South Park can be- and when it hits, it's hilarious. And sometimes it's just gross- never thought I'd live to see puppets performing a hot carl, but it just goes to show ya. This is a bit overlong- I wish the script had been funnier and tighter...but it's the kind of movie that you can go around quoting all day if you're so inclined. B+

THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD (2004)
This is my first exposure to the work of one Guy Maddin, whose apparent specialty is approximating the look of low budget early-talkie era films from the 20's and 30's. It's got some interesting stars- Isabella Rosselini, Mark (Kids in the Hall, SNL) McKinney- but it's just so steadfastly oddball that after a while it became wearisome. Still, the story is fun- during the Great Depression, beer baroness Rosselini, who lost her legs thanks to the drunken father of McKinney's character, announces a worldwide contest to perform the saddest song in the world. I won't synopsize it further- if you're interested, go here- but I will say that Rossellini gives the best performance I've seen from her myself, and McKinney is excellent as the fast-talking smoothie who has a history with her and ends up representing the US in the contest. It's a fascinating film visually, but like I said it kinda runs out of steam eventually. B

MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2005)**
I've never been a big boxing fan; I know that there is art and strategy to it but it just seems like a big circus (especially these days, without a dominant or interesting personality such as Ali or Frazier to humanize it a bit) in which people beat the shit out of each other for the vicarious entertainment and gambling urges of others. Of course, this is less a film about boxing per se; it uses the boxing world as a metaphor for human nature and relationships, and it succeeds with aplomb by making us care deeply about these characters, not only Hilary Swank's pugnacious white trash waitress who yearns to make money by fighting, but director Clint Eastwood's grizzled trainer and his friend and partner Morgan Freeman. This is especially a triumph for Eastwood, who gives his character shades that the younger Clint wouldn't have been allowed, or wouldn't have allowed himself, to have- in fact, it wasn't the tragic fate of Swank's character and the hospital scenes which made me tear up a little; it was Eastwood's haunting talk with a priest that he previously had a sort of antagonistic relationship with. Seeing the crusty, features-chiseled-of-granite Eastwood break down with tears of guilt and responsibility for his injured protege, well, if you didn't get a little misty there's just no hope for ya, that's all. There was very little, if any, of the clumsy foreshadowing that hinders most Hollywood films these days in my eyes, and the temptation to clumsily impart life lessons was also thankfully absent. Once in a while a movie lives up to the hype, and Million Dollar Baby is one of those films. A

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
I didn't care much at all for the first two of the modern "prequel" SW films; in fact, except for the first two (#'s 4 & 5, actually) Star Wars films in general have left me cold. #6 was OK, especially towards the end, but I couldn't stand those @#!%$ Ewoks. Anyway, by emphasizing the human (and one Muppet) actor, and de-emphasizing the cartoonish CGI that overwhelmed #2, Lucas has finally given me reason to care about these characters, especially the whole Amydala/Anakin/Obi-Wan triangle. It's not easy to impart some dramatic tension to events that people have been aware of for over twenty years. There's plenty of action to be had, as well- I enjoyed the big action set piece as Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan battled the cool-looking robot with the grievously dumb name, General Grievous- his lizard-stallion was a nice bit of CGI, for sure. It was fun to see Chewbacca in a cameo, and even Jar-Jar Binks- although the setting wasn't quite as much fun. McGregor was fine throughout, even though I keep expecting to hear him break into song ever since Moulin Rouge; Natalie Portman was outstanding, gratifying since her wooden performance in Episode 5 had convinced me she'd never be an actress of consequence until she did Cold Mountain and Garden State; Hayden Christensen did a good job of standing where he was supposed to do, but the lad has no presence as an actor; God forbid he and Orlando Bloom should ever do a buddy pic. Really, until he donned the black armor and was able to wax melodramatic, he was barely there at all. I thought Ian McDarmid did a great job as the prissily malevolent Palpatine; his was probably the best non-Muppet performance of them all, including the normally reliable Samuel L. Jackson, who looked as embarrassed to be there as he did last time out. I was also happy to see that Christopher Lee was a bit more lively and mobile than he was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- I was afraid premature rigor mortis had set in on the great actor. Or was that CGI? With these flicks, who knows? Anyway, when Lucas made the first one in 1977, he wanted to give the people a high-tech version of the popcorn-cinema space operas of yore, and had two successes right off the bat. he then floundered with the next three, cutesiness and too much CGI strangled the life out of them. But with Revenge of the Sith, he finally recaptured the magic and went out with a bang. Wonder what he'll do next? Honestly, can you see Lucas directing something like, oh, Glory Road or Rumor Has It ? Neither can I. But I sincerely hope that he will let the Star Wars franchise rest in peace now. B+

OK, that's it for now, more later hopefully. How much later remains to be seen! Coming soon: Fantastic Four, Sahara, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and maybe more.
Won't get my new comics shipment until later on this week, perhaps even the next; but I have recently received a couple of interesting books in the mail, and here they be:

SUPER SPY WEEKLY (Top Shelf)
S/A: Matt Kindt
What we have here is an extrapolation, rather than a strict sequel, to Kindt's previous release 2 Sisters. Sisters was an ambitious, sprawling story which took place in several different eras with many different characters, but mostly centered on WWII era spies- and I thought it missed as often as it hit, although Kindt is obviously a very talented graphic artist- despite the fact that I just don't care for the way he draws figures. Super Spy Weekly gives us four short stories, all involving spies for this side or that, and they all revolve on and resolve with a clever twist. The first two, so far, have been presented in webcomic form on Top Shelf's site. None of the earlier characters appear, except for a cameo in story one ("Safehouse") from Sisters' Elle. Off all of them, I liked that tale the best- an account of a young woman who entertains a succession of spies at the request of another, who strings her along with promises of love, it had a bit more gravity and drama than the other three, which tended to be lightweight interludes more so than fleshed-out stories. I also got a laugh out of "The Super Spy", which pokes fun at the James Bond school of gadget-laden secret agents. Coincidentally, perhaps, both of these entries were the ones spotlighted on the website, make of it what you will. I think Kindt's tales of spies work better for me in small doses, rather than in epic form, since I enjoyed this a lot more than I did Sisters. And once more, I gotta give a ton of props to Top Shelf for the consistently excellent presentation of their publications- SSW sports not only high-quality paper stock, but also vellum paper for the maps on the two inside front and back pages, a Super Spy index card glued to another inside front page, and in a neat touch a small tobacco-card size card of a seal, which is incorporated into the page layout at the part of "Safehouse" where the male spy regards the card which is inserted in his pack of cigarettes as he talks to the young woman, who reminisces at odd times during the narrative about visiting a seal at the zoo as a child. It's little touches like this which shows Top Shelf's commitment to presenting quality publications, without worrying too much, apparently, about the bottom line...unless Brett Warnock has some sort of agreement with paper suppliers involving risque photographs or something. Anyway, I don't know if this is an actual weekly or if it's just a play on pulp novels- but whatever the frequency I hope to see more of these, either online or in print. A

MARLENE (Slave Labor)
S/A: Peter Snejbjerg
Here's that Snejbjerg fella again, right off my reading of Light Brigade a couple of weeks ago, this time with am X-rated (or at least heavy R) story which is a mix of Mickey Spillane, Pygmalion, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth and Rod Serling (I could totally have seen this, minus of course the full frontal nudity, on an episode of Night Gallery) as a taciturn, reserved police detective (who still comes across as a tightly-wound loose cannon) gets involved with a beautiful free-spirited young woman who may or may not be a murderous shapeshifting elder-god-type creature. If I've read anything by Snejbjerg the writer, I can't recall- I mostly know him as an illustrator. If this is his first writing effort, it's not bad- he's good with dialogue, and the story moves along at a brisk clip. I was a bit annoyed, as I tend to be, at the lack of a clear-cut resolution of the events...I still don't really see the point of the scene when the nutball artist confronts the creature in his studio, and appears to be killed, (or at least we see the exterior of the house and an "NYAAARGH" sound effect) only to pop up later on in the story, serving only to make us wonder if he's really the morphing monster. Still, that's a small quibble that doesn't really blow the story as a whole for me. Artwise, Snejjie is still at the top of his game- he's a ludicrously underrated craftsman who manages to combine the best of the styles of Will Eisner and Richard Corben, with perhaps a dash of one of the Filipino greats like Nestor Redondo. His b&w-with-grey-wash tones work is moody and atmospheric, and his figure drawings and facial expressions are solid throughout, even when the protagonists are wearing clothes, heh-heh. There's been a small fuss about the lack of a mature content warning on the cover, and it's justified- there's some surprisingly explicit sex scenes here, and I'm not really sure if they're necessary but they're well done just the same. Even though I had the Todd Rundgren song stuck in my head as I read it, I though Marlene was a surprisingly good read and I think you just might too. A-
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us RIP "Wicked" Wilson Pickett, for whom the Midnight Hour struck back on Thursday. Everybody remembers "Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally", but I always liked another hit of his, "634-5789".

Saturday, January 21, 2006

THE PENULTIMATE EDITION OF JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PICKS.

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Dont'cha love that word "penultimate"? Whatta strange word. Anyway, the playoffs. Here's my picks.

First, last week, 3-1 again with only the Colts' deadbeat knuckleheaded coaching staff impeding my 4-0 weekend. Playoff record, 6-2.

PITTSBURGH over Denver. The little angel and devil are standing on my shoulders, arguing, over this game...the angel says "Denver's at home, Dave...and they're hard to beat at home. Plus, Pittsburgh just may have had their Super Bowl last weekend. Take the Broncos!" But, the devil says "Wise up, Dave- the Steelers are a better team on both sides of the ball, especially on defense! Plus, you HATE the Broncos. remember 1998?" So there ya go. Pittsburgh may have rejected me, but for this weekend I embrace Pittsburgh.

SEATTLE over Carolina. You may say that I'm just being nice to Laura and my fellow Stupid Llama, Mike Cary. But not so. The Panthers are all banged up on both sides of the ball, and while I think Nick Goings is better than many think, and I love Jake Delhomme (in a platonic way, of course) I'm certain that the Seahawks will pay attention to Steve Smith, unlike the Bears, plus Shaun Alexander will be back strong and that will make the difference. Plus, the travel thing that always seems to factor in when considering Seattle. I like both teams, but I'm rooting for the 'Hawks to go to their first Super Bowl.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Yeah, I'm sick of that Scarlett cover, too. Sorry I've been incommunicado this week- work is simply draining all my energy right now. I plan to get some stuff posted this weekend and Monday (I'm off!), so hang in there with me, please.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

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Y'know, sometimes you see a comic book cover and just go "What the hell...?"

From the mostly forgotten Buffy the Vampire Slayer film knockoff, Scarlett, which was actually a pretty lively affair and even sported art by Gray Morrow in some of the later issues.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Time once more for
THE BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE!
Ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous meandering observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of December 28th through January 11th!




DESOLATION JONES #5 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Warren Ellis; A: J.H. Williams III
After probing the assorted miasmata of a number of tangential characters, Ellis now lets us become privy to the nightmarish event which made Mr. Jones the way his is today, and it's brought to wonderful, horrible life by J.H. Williams, bringing all the perceptual tricks he honed in his stint on Promethea to bear. Jones is, and was even before this, a pathetic specimen- and the antithesis of the typical Ellis Hero- he's not confident, not cool, not especially smart, charismatic, or even pissed off. He's a shambling wreck, actually. But knowing that this deeply flawed protagonist will somehow rise above the morass of his situation, and watching him go about it, is (well, besides the superlative Williams' art, that is) all the fun of this most atypical, yet familiar just the same, Warren Ellis character...and I hope there will be many more issues to come. A

DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON #1 (Marvel)
S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti. A: Khari Evans, Palmiotti.
Ah, the Garth Ennis school of comics-making (remember Fury?) is NOT dead. Just in time to become a great example of the very thing that Lea Hernandez and others have been railing against, we get a Spike-TV-flavored resurrection of the Misty Knight/Colleen Wing team, who first came to our attention in the long-ago '70s issues of Iron Fist- and they were intriguing enough to be fondly remembered by a lot of aging comics geeks, myself included. I don't know about them, but the last thing I was hoping for was a sophomoric T&A fest, kinda like that one panel of All-Star Batman that's got everyone so worked up except that it goes on much longer as artist Evans displays the girls in various convoluted booty-call poses and the Gray/Palmiotti team, doing so well on Jonah Hex, giving us lesbian innuendo and smirky jokes. Too bad, because the girls are compelling in spite of the tawdriness, and the humor, when it's not nudging us in the ribs, works well- especially with the sad-sack group of villains we meet here ("Eightball", heh), kinda like a less-clever She-Hulk. If Evans could restrain himself (herself?)- his/her work reminds me of Phil Winslade except not as polished, and Graymiotti could get their noses out of FHM magazine, they could give us fun, exciting junk...but based on this issue, it seems they're only interested in junk. C+

DMZ #3 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood, A: Riccardo Burchielli & Wood
Three issues in, and I still don't have any kind of a feel for what this is supposed to be about, other than lead Matt encountering weird people and asshole soldiers, and getting shot at or leaping out of the way when things explode. Still, Matty is likeable and interesting enough to keep me buying, for now. Burchielli's art is solid, especially in the first four or five pages as he gives us some diverting action shots as Manhattan gets bombed. B+

SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #2 (DC)
S: Grant Morrison, A: Doug Mahnke
Lively mix of Mary Shelly, Burroughs, and Lovecraft as Franky breaks up Mister Melmoth's (late of Klarion) little mining operation on Mars, and Grant fills in a few more blanks in the process. As always, I remain in awe of the powerful, yet nuanced, art of Doug Mahnke, who can draw the most dire events in superlative fashion, even achieving a kind of lyrical poetry in the opening sequences on the Martian plain, with Frankie and his lantern and his trusty bug-beast steeds...but can't hide the light, humorous touch which keeps everything from becoming ponderous and dull. The world's a better place, as far as I'm concerned, when Mr. Mahnke draws comics. A

100 BULLETS 68 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello, A: Eduardo Risso
Best thing about this issue is the final panel, a neat twist which Azzarello patiently and cleverly sets up throughout the whole narrative. Also, we get a lot of flashback activity this time out, which actually enhances our knowledge of the cumbersome plot instead of muddying the waters further. Risso does a typically great job of illustrating the early '60s setting of these flashbacks, but unfortunately caricature isn't among his prodigious talents- he totally whiffs when called upon to draw Frank Sinatra on the cover of his Come Swing With Me album. Oh well, nobody's perfect. A

JONAH HEX #3 (DC)
S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Luke Ross
Bat Lash makes a guest appearance this time out, in another tale of frontier corruption and harsh Hex-style justice. Gotta understand, I'm a huge fan of the original 60's run, sadly unreprinted, and I'm mighty picky about how he's used...and I'm pleased to say that Graymiotti acquit themselves well on that score, even though they just don't really have the James Garner-as-Maverick-inspired mix of sincerity and insouciance that Dennis O'Neil and Sergio Aragones were somehow able to bring to the table, and no one's really touched since. Artist Ross is still coming across as a bit of a soft-focus poor man's John Cassaday, but really, he's better than that. A-

GOTHAM CENTRAL #39 (DC)
S: Greg Rucka, A: Kano, Steven Gaudiano
Excellent dramatics throughout, as Rucka works his cast skillfully and Kano/Gaudiano bring out all the drama inherit in this account of the aftermath of the murder of Detective Allen. This comic hasn't always been this good, but I'll really miss its down-to-earth tone- another in the long list of "best comics nobody bought". A

FABLES #45 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham, A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha
A number of intriguing twists and turns in the lives of all these characters, that will mean a lot to you if you've been reading for a while, and will mean nothing if you haven't...competently drawn by the Buckingham/Leialoha team. A-
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHEY! IT'S TIME FOR JOHNNY B's FEARLESS, PAINLESS, SIMPLIFIED and ILLUSTRATED NFL FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PICKS!

Last week, 3-1. I underestimated the Skinnies. Will I make the same mistake twice...?


Apparently.

SEATTLE over Washington. I am firmly on the Seattle bandwagon, and it's too late to jump off now. The Hawks will struggle to score, but are more potent offensively than Tampa Bay was, plus it's hard to fly cross-country and win up there, even when the 'Hawks suck...and I don't think 100+ yards of total offense will cut it two weeks in a row.

DENVER over New England. Don't feel comfortable about this pick at all because the Pats have been playing like champions again. But I just have the feeling Denver will control the clock on the ground.

INDIANAPOLIS over Pittsburgh. Indy was my pick to win it all back in August, and I see no reason to change horses in midstream.

CAROLINA over Chicago. God knows the Bears D is tough. But this is the playoffs, and I think John Fox will have the Panthers ready to pound the ball and pass when necessary, unlike last time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Time for my midweek post. Sorry I can't get it up more frequently...I'm working on my stamina though so don't give up on me just yet.

Anyway, figured the least I could do is share the contents of my upcoming DCBS order, which shipped today, which means I'll probably get it Tuesday thanks to Dr. King. Hyar tis:

GOTHAM CENTRAL #39
JONAH HEX #3
SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #2
DESOLATION JONES #5
100 BULLETS #68
FABLES #45
DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON #1

And that's all! About half of the last order. Oh well.

In other comics-world stuff, I'm intrigued about Danielle Corsetto, of Girls With Slingshots fame, taking over the Bat-Boy strip in the Weekly World News from Peter Bagge. I don't think I ever actually purchased an issue of the WWN, but I always stood and read it in the checkout line at the grocery to see what Bagge was doing with it. Corsetto's style couldn't be more different than Pete's, but I think it looks interesting in its own right, and I'll most likely continue to read it while waiting to pay for my food.

Read with a no little consternation at Tom Spurgeon's that Nick Anderson, who has been the political cartoonist for the Louisville Courier-Journal for several years now, is leaving for another newspaper in Houston. Pity. Hopefully the C-J can replace him with someone as interesting. Unlike many dailies, political cartooning is still important there; they run many pieces by Pat Oliphant and many others, as well as Doonesbury on the editorial page. I remember, many years ago, thinking that the legendary Hugh Haynie, who did the cartooning honors for the C-J for many years, had lost his touch and fervently hoped that he would retire soon. Eventually, they began to run the occasional cartoon by Anderson, to give Haynie a break, and he made such a good impression on me that I was delighted when Haynie finally did retire and Anderson took over for good.

A while back, I essayed a meme at the LJ which asked an alphabetical series of questions, one of which was "something that makes you smile". At the time, sadly, I couldn't think of anything, but now I see that Derek Kirk Kim has a new serialized feature going on at his site, and that, boys and girls, makes me smile. Along with many other things.

Alright, that's all I got. Go do something important now. Me, I think I'll sit down and watch Star Wars Episode III, newly arrived from Netflix. Then I'll read some more of that excellent Beatles book before I go to bed. One of these days I'll try to do a best-of 2005 movies & music, but don't stand on one leg waiting!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Time once more for
THE BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE!
Ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted exiguous meandering observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of December 21st through December 28th


LIGHT BRIGADE TPB (DC)
S: Peter Tomasi, Jr.; A: Peter Snejbjerg
I'm not familiar with Tomasi's previous scripting work; I seem to recall him more as a former letterhack and later editor, but my memory is faulty sometimes. Anyway, during World War II (not WWI, as I had erroneously assumed, although I think it would have been more interesting in that setting), a platoon of men get mixed up in a war between angels and Earthbound human/bad angel hybrids. There are a lot of second-hand ideas here, but Tomasi is to be commended for weaving them together as well as he did, but he's dragged down by cliched dialogue and characters, and the comic-book fan turned professional's apparent compulsion to squeeze in a comic-book loving soldier...and then he shoots himself in the foot by having same character come across as, shall we say, "mentally challenged". Still, it doesn't get boring, and if the ingredients are over-familiar, well, at least they work well together. Really, more than anything this is a showcase for the solid craftsmanship of Snejbjerg, who really grew on me during his stint on Starman, and he's excellent throughout, giving us wonderfully staged action, nicely detailed backgrounds, and excellently realized figures. And if they sometimes their faces look like they're from a Wallace and Grommit cartoon, well, them's the breaks sometimes. Light Brigade isn't going to Push Comics Forward (TM) or anything, but it's a good evening's read, especially for fans of Lucifer or Preacher-type stories, and would have been a real gas as a serial in the pages of the long-ago Blazing Combat. B+

WIMBLEDON GREEN, THE GREATEST COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR IN THE WORLD (Drawn & Quarterly)
S/A: Seth
I'm about to make a shocking confession. As someone who is regarded as having Good Taste In Comics, whatever that means, it will amaze when I confess that (until now, of course) I do not own a single book by critical darling Seth. Although his praises were sung long and loud by the Comics Journal, back when I was a subscriber, what I saw just never really moved me to buy. Not that I didn't think he was talented, or worthy of my attention, but I just wasn't interested. So what caused me to invest in this handsomely packaged and surpisingly moderately priced lark, you may ask? A small preview in D&Q's Free Comic Book Day offering, if you must know, proof positive that FCBD is indeed a worthwhile effort. But I digress. Seth celebrates the Comic Book Collecting Culture with one hand as he ridicules it with the other, then hides behind the false modesty of the "It's merely a sketchbook exercise" dodge. He needn't have done that- while his smirk is prevalent, this is really a richly imagined fantasy of the highest order, with just enough truth to make it sting although I kinda wonder, in my rural insulation away from this aspect of comics fandom (which I thought kinda peaked over 10 years ago) if anyone will feel stung. Sometimes the 20-panel grids become a tad monotonous, and I can't look at the titular character without thinking of the Mayor on all those Monopoly game "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards, but really, this is a meticulously drawn, often amusing, somewhat smirky, and impressively imaginative exercise in satire, and while I think he'll have a hard time topping this, I'd urge him to do a whole book of "Fine and Dandy" stories. A

B.P.R.D.: THE BLACK FLAME #5 (Dark Horse)
S: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi; A: Guy Davis
Best things this time out: Great interludes with Liz Sherman as she confronts the mysterious crimson-robed figure of her dreams, and another one of those Lovecraftian giant worm thingies that have been popping up since Seeds of Destruction without a lot of explanation as far as what and why and how they are gets to do a Godzilla stomp on some US city (I forget which one). And of course, more great stuff by Guy Davis, nicely colored by Dave Stewart in the Liz/Mysterious-figure scenes. B+

DAREDEVIL #80 (Marvel)
S: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Alex Maleev
A bit livelier than previous issues, what with all the catfighting, ninjas and excessive superhero cameos. Gotta hand it to Bendis here- he takes a character with a dubious premise like the Night Nurse, and once again makes her the most interesting person in the whole darn book. Maleev isn't really on top of his game here; many of his cut-and-pasted faces have inappropriate expressions, and while I'm not an Alias reader, is Jessica Jones really supposed to be as ugly as Maleev makes her look on page eight? B+

CATWOMAN #50 (DC)
S: Will Pfiefer; A: Pete Woods
So Zatanna has done her Infinity Bullshit mindwipe magic on Selina, eh? OK, sure, whatever. Why it's necessary to reconcile the purple-suited, T&A version of Catwoman with the Brubaker/Cooke rethink, I don't know, but it was as well-done as one can hope for, with the plot threads of the last few issues worked in very well and nicely drawn as always, even though Woods' Zee was a tad disappointing. A-

F.PAUL WILSON'S THE KEEP #3 (IDW)
S: Wilson; A: Matt Smith
I don't know what else to say about this one; I can't find fault with the faithfully adapted by its author story, but Smith's art is simply freeze-drying everything, and he's not helped by the dull color scheme. Maybe it will read better collected, who knows. C+

LOVELESS #3 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Marcelo Frusin
Even though Azzarello still has no flair for writing Civil War-era dialogue, this is the first issue in which plot threads take interesting turns and characters exhibit some real charisma rather than just assuming we'll like them because they're all glum and hard-boiled. Just when I was considering bailing, now I'm drawn back in...and hopefully I won't regret it. Frusin, for his part, is fine as always. he's Azzarello's second-best collaborator. B-

SILENT DRAGON #6 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Andy Diggle; A: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan
Well, as noisy, cluttered, chaotic, posturing finales go, this succeeds admirably. Combined with the cynical, downbeat ending, which makes me apprehensive all of a sudden about the Losers windup coming soon, it all makes for a professionally done, but ultimately underwhelming exercise that I won't look back on fondly. Yu sometimes achieves a scratchy sort of Kubert Sr. and Jr. look, if you squint your eyes. C+. Entire series: C.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #215 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Leo Manco
Johnny tells off (actually, scares off by showing them how they will die) a sycophantic group of London magic-users in Carey's well-done finale to this title. His run had its moments, for sure, but on the whole wasn't as captivating as his work on Lucifer, and makes me wonder if all the Constantine stories haven't already been told. Guess we'll see when comics outsider Denise Mina assumes the writing duties next issue. A-

LUCIFER #69 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly
Here's that Carey fella again with the grande finale to the penultimate arc of what remains his best, and most fully realized, comics work. Longtime readers will be rewarded, no doubt. And, as always, the steadfastly bland art of Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly (who's much, much better on his own in Local) adequately illustrates the goings-on. The next two issues will have someone else drawing them, then (unless Ive misread somewhere) it's au revoir for the best of all the Sandman spinoffs. A-

SOLO #8 (DC)
S: Neil Gaiman, Steven Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen; A: Kristiansen
Quite a mixed bag, all held together by Kristiansen's sketchy, impressionistic style. First is a Deadman tale, written by Gaiman, which reads like a leftover Sandman story. Next up is a severely underdrawn tale of missionaries and cannibals, and the only one with any sort of real point. It was written by his former House of Secrets collaborator, Seagle. The next three are atmospheric interludes, written by the artist, involving an artist's fascination with a woman he observes, Rear Window-style, from a bridge. Nicely done, but the story's resolution isn't, and it leaves one hanging. Same goes for the next tale, about a young man commissioned to paint an invalid architect's churches as ruins. Again, nicely done, but no real resolution. Finally, a harrowing tale involving a subject which has been done several times before, freezing men in the arctic resorting to cannibalism...and it doesn't end so much as it expires- but at least it has a ending. I know, I know, stories don't always have to have proper endings, but unfortunately I've always been of the willful mindset that the lack of a satisfying (negatively or positively) conclusion is the difference between an "eh" story and a "wow" story. Too many "eh"s here for me to be really enthusiastic. Not to Kristiansen: The term "Ms." didn't come into use until the 1970's...jarring in a short story set in what appears to be the '20s or '30s. B+.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE BULLETEER #2 (DC)
S: Grant Morrison; A: Yanick Paquette, Serge LaPointe
A return of sorts to #0, as we get a more-or-less straightforward narrative and update on the doomed team assembled by the Vigilante, and our heroine's connection to same. Also, there's yet another agent of the authorities with more going on than meets the eye, some helpful references to events in the other minis, most notably Klarion, and some almost-great Paquette art to compliment the goings-on. Once more, I don't see where he's going with this, but I'm enjoying this particular ride. SLIGHT UPDATE: Damned if I didn't forget exactly who our Bulleteer is hired to escort this issue was: FBI Agent and Morrison thinking/rational female archetype "Sky High" Helligan, who I thought had met an untimely end in typically garbled fashion in Shining Knight. Not so! And it's a great example of Grant re-using one of his puzzle peices to fine effect. Domo arigato to Ragnell, of Written World renown, for reminding me in this recent post. A-

TOP 10: BEYOND THE FARTHEST PRECINCT #5 (DC/Wildstorm/ABC)
S: Paul DiFilippo; A: Jerry Ordway
Talky, chaotic, overstuffed, and most damning, no fun at all. Ordway confuses clutter with cleverness, and DiFilippo writes like he thought he was getting twelve issues instead of five. Whaddaya say we declare a moratorium on Alan Moore characters being written by anyone other than the Man himself? Yeah, I know, fat chance. C-. Entire series: C.

TESTAMENT #1 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Douglas Rushikoff; A: Liam Sharp
If you squint your eyes, this almost looks like a Morrison/Quitely effort, and that may be what the fine folks at DC are banking on here. This is my first exposure to Rushikoff's work, and it's just fine as far as I'm concerned, with a nicely done Orwellian feel to the opening and some interesting ideas, especially about the nature of religion, in the mix. There's a lot of potential here, I think, but I also remember the old saying "There's many a slip between cup and the lip". B+

MYTHOLOGY: THE DC COMICS ART OF ALEX ROSS
Art direction/design/text: Chip Kidd
A beautiful big coffee-table sized book, showcasing ├╝ber-realist Ross's DC work up to the time of its publication, with unpublished work, sketches, collaborations with the likes of Bruce Timm, and special emphasis on Kingdom Come and the underrated Uncle Sam. If you like Ross, and I know many don't- me, I find his work as visually impressive as it is emotionally empty- then you must have this, if you don't already. Actually, my favorite Ross piece is one panel, from Marvels, (which falls outside the purview of this DC-slanted collection) which depicts Giant-Man, one of my childhood favorite superheroes, striding over a street while people gape at him from below. That one summed up all the wonders of being five and reading about superheroes, and still gives me a little shiver in the rare occasions that I dig the book out from storage. A

WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME IF I WET THE BED? (Top Shelf)
S/A: Liz Prince
I think I'd love you a lot more if you didn't ask me to be a voyeur to your hastily-scrawled love-life-in-cartoon vignettes, which strike me as a cutesy post-modern version of Love Is.... I mean, I'm happy you guys have such a great relationship, but after a while, I just didn't want to know anymore. C+
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Just for fun, a little sneak preview of an upcoming look at one of my favorite overlooked comics series. When I get around to doing the rereading and the scanning of panels and covers and such, that is. I dug these out the other night when I dug out my copy of Brave & Bold #80.

And no, I'm not stoned.
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I've been remiss in doing Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings, I know. But I couldn't let the day go by without posting something in honor of the other famous David Jones out there, DAVID BOWIE, who turns 59 today. Ordinarily, I'd do a 25 favorite songs list, but I don't have the time tonight. Maybe later. I did do a longish post with my opinions on his albums a year or two ago, perhaps a Google search will unearth it. It was written before I had heard Heathen and Reality, however, and I think those two, especially the former, stack up with his classic 70's output. I'm looking forward to what he puts out next.

Also, can't not mention

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THE KING, aka Elvis Aron Presley, who would have been (is?) 71 today.

Also, Yvette Mimieux and Soupy Sales, making this a fortuitous day for birthdays all around!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

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Well, I had hoped to have the new edition of The Bacardi Show New Comics Revue up for your reading pleasure up tonight, but it ain't gonna happen. I'll finish it tomorrow, with any luck. In the meantime, here's a quick laugh for ya from Angry Youth Comics #10, by Johnny Ryan. This one cracked me up, it did.

More funny stuff: RetroCRUSH's 100 Most Annoying Things of 2005!. Actually, I liked "Hollaback Girl". Thanks to the incomparable CzelticGirl for pointing it out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Guess Creeper ears are better than Bat ears!"

Like most discriminating seekers after entertaining comics blogging, I frequently check out Mag & H's Comics Treadmill. One of the many ongoing features has been an issue-by-issue look at classic issues of The Brave and the Bold, DC's team-up title that ran one month shy of twenty-eight years. Unfortunately, they don't have access to every issue, and they were recently unable to index one of them, #80, which I do have since it's a longtime fave of mine (listed in my 100 things I love about comics list, to be exact). So, I thought perhaps I could be an unofficial Junior Treadmiller and provide an overview of my own, to help out Mag & H.

I myself bought many, many issues of Brave and the Bold, from this one, from when the local Ben Franklin five and dime started carrying DC's instead of Gold Key comics, until this one, many years later and purchased from that new breed of comic book supplier, the direct market comics shop. I had obtained, via parental money, a few issues earlier than that, but it was with #101 that my B&B collecting began in earnest. And it's here that a fella named Johnny Craighead enters the picture. Johnny was a kid one year older than I, son of a teacher, my 7th grade teacher to be exact...and he had a set of shelves in his basement that held stacks upon stacks of 50's, 60's and early '70's vintage DC Comics (there may have been some Marvels and Charltons in there too, I forget- the DC's are the ones I remember the most) which his rather stern mother nicely, but firmly, refused to let him sell or trade. But fortunately, I could borrow and read them, and one day I took home a run of Adams-illo'ed B&B's- Adams being a favorite of mine thanks to his X-Men and Avengers efforts for Marvel. One of these books was the one in the upper right hand corner, Brave and the Bold number 80, October-November 1968: "And Hellgrammite is His Name"- a team up between Batman, who had pretty much become the book's anchor character by that point especially since Adams was drawing it, and the newish Creeper, the Steve Ditko creation who was into the third issue of his short-lived series at the time of this issue's publication. Guess the crossover didn't help sales much, because Beware the Creeper was axed with issue #6 in 1969. As always, Bob Haney provided the script and Dick Giordano inks.

B&B 80 opens with Batman confronting an arsonist at gunpoint on the roof of a burning building. Here's some vintage Haney dialogue: Arsonist- "Please, Batman-- give me a break! I don't wanna zap you-- but...but the flames-- they'll get us both!" Batman: "you haven't the guts to shoot-- and add a murder rap to arson! No, that's not your bag-- you just barbecue people caught in the burnouts you set!" Yeah, baby- that sort of thing is his bag. Anyway, the tense standoff is interrupted by the sudden flyover of a helicopter announcing, via loudspeaker, "...PRESENTING JACK RYDER ON WHAM-TV...", which gives the arsonist the opportunity to charge Batman and try to jump to the next roof. He succeeds in knocking them both off the edge- Bats grabs on to a fire truck's ladder, and the arsonist is caught by the firemen with a safety net. Satisfied with this, a pissed-off Batman swings out in pursuit of the helicopter, to give the pilot a piece of his mind...and it turns out that none other than Ryder himself is the pilot of the vehicle.



Can you imagine Batman thinking "close, but no cee-gar" to himself these days? Even in a Frank Miller comic? Anyway, Ryder informs Batman that his broadcast that night is important enough to warrant the hype, and suggests that he should watch. Of course, the stuffy Bats harrumphs "My... uh... line of work'll keep me busy tonight! Besides, I don't appreciate your methods!" But two panels later, he's in front of the TV, watching with Commissioner Gordon as Ryder reveals the menace of the Hellgrammite, a fantastic half-man, half insect creature who's in Gotham for unknown reasons. Ryder says that he followed him here to find out what he's up to. Batman and Gordon dismiss this as more Ryder sensationalism, and discuss another mystery case that's been puzzling the GCPD, the disappearance of gangster Ace Brannigan. We also get a little entomology lesson when Gordon asks Bats in passing, "By the way, what is a hellgrammite?" To which he replies as he leaps out the window, "The larva of a dobson fly! A dark, deadly bug with a bite like a timber wolf that lives under rocks!" Batman heads straight to the TV station, where he confronts Ryder once more to gauge how serious he is about this unknown menace stuff. Ryder gets a bit too fervent in his attempt to convince the Caped Crusader, and once more Bats dismisses him.



Irritated by being dissed by Bats twice in one night, Jack Ryder thinks he might pay more attention to the Creeper! So, he makes the change (Adams nicely incorporating Ditko's style) and goes after him. Of course, Batman recognizes him as a wanted criminal, and in that time-honored superhero teamup tradition, they brawl a bit. But unlike most superhero scrums, this one at least has the advantage of being depicted by Neal Adams at his best, and below are (click to see bigger) two full page examples of his hyperkinetic style being brought to bear.



The pipe into which Creeper deposits Batman contains a huge cocoon, and the proof that he needs to convince his new acquaintance. As he helps Bats out, suddenly they're attacked by Hellgrammite himself, who's not happy that they discovered his property. As Batman turns to deal with the unexpected menace, Adams gives us this great haymaker shot:




Hellgie slings Batman away, but he catches a wrecking ball cable and swings back to the site and finds Creeper alone- he bailed while no one was looking. The police show up and Creeper hides as Commissioner Gordon informs Batman that the Creeper is in town. When they leave, Bats decides to strike a deal with his colorful new friend, saying that he'll help find Hellgrammite, but as soon as they've apprehended him then he'll be back after Creeper's ass. Nice.

Anyway, long story short, it seems that Hellgie is behind the disappearances of crime bosses in Gotham- apparently he intends to transform them into bug-men as well, and recruit them as allies. Bats and Creeper tussle with gangsters as they search (the crooks hoist Creeper up in that glass panel on the cover, but Batman rescues him), eventually discover the missing bosses ensconced in their cocoons in an abandoned subway tunnel, and take them to a hospital, where they get irradiated with x-rays and emerge as normal men again. They return to the tunnel and brawl with Hellgrammite once more:




And thanks to a combination of fire extinguisher foam and electrical cables, subdue their freakish foe. But by now, the Creeper has Batman's respect, and that other B&B tradition, the farewell scene, goes like this:





A bit different than the usual "wave as they fly away" scene, huh!

Why did I like this comic so much? Let me count the ways. The dynamic art of Adams. The non-stop action, in support of a story which was surprisingly down-to-Earth for a 1968 DC Comic, despite its sci-fi trappings. The freakishly compelling Hellgrammite, who wasn't really given a proper origin- he was just explained as an "entomologist who experimented on himself", and he definitely was given menacing life by Adams's skilled pencil. The coloring, while run-of-the-mill 60's comic coloring, still played up the difference between the blue-and-gray Batman and the wild, yellow/red/lime green Creeper. The Creeper himself- he's always been an intriguing, entertaining character in the right hands, but unfortunately the creators that have done him justice have been few and far between. I've always held that Creeper was a character that everybody likes, but nobody has a clue about what to do with. And honestly, I'm not sure if he's ever had a better showcase, not even in the original Ditko series.

So Mag, H, and everyone, here's your look at Brave and the Bold number 80. Hope you liked it as much as I've liked this comic for a shade over 30 years.
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RIP Lou Rawls.

I don't own a lot of his music, but man he had a great voice, and I always liked to hear it when the opportunity presented itself.
The NFL playoffs are upon us, so now it is incumbent upon me to bestow upon you JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PLAYOFF PICKS!

Last week's regular season finale: 10-6. My final 2005 regular season record: 155-86 (+/- 1 game), .643.

I start with a clean slate for the playoffs. Here goes:

TAMPA BAY over Washington. I know, the Skinnies have been hot, but they feel like a team which is a year away.

NEW ENGLAND over Jacksonville. I just can't see the better than you think Jag-wires going up there and beating Belichick.

CAROLINA over the NY Giants. Sorry, Roger, but the learning curve of Eli Manning gets a little steeper now that he's in the playoffs. He'll be back, though.

PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati. I like Cincy, I really do, but the last couple of weeks have been dismaying.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Holy Mackanoley, is it Wednesday already?

I haven't posted here (or anywhere else) since SUNDAY!

Well, on Monday I was off, and spent most of the morning working on a large post, with scans, breaking down a comic book that I said I'd do back in November. Problem is, I didn't get finished, due to outside world concerns occupying my precious blogging time in the afternoon and evening. Tuesday, work and part-time job that evening. No blogging. But I got my new comics! And I spent the rest of the evening reading them. I also squeezed in viewings of one of my Xmas DVD's, Snatch on Monday night and the 2-hour Wings as in McCartney's other band documentary Wingspan (should have been subtitled Paul Really Really Really Really Really Really Really Loved Linda. A Lot. Really.) last night. Today, work all day, and I really meant to finish the darn thing when I got home but whilst sitting down to eat, I got interested in a TCM screening of the downbeat 1965 Richard Burton spy flick The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. So the post has lain fallow yea verily all this time, and frankly, I'm too tired to finish it now although I think I will do a couple more scans and perhaps type a line or two. Maybe tomorrow night...although I do still have some books left to read...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

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Looks like that was my last post of 2005. Oh well, HAPPY NEW YEAR to each and every one of you out there, and I hope 2006 is better for all of us.

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And while I'm at it, here's a chuckle to start the year with. Ganked from the LJ of heykidzcomix.