Sunday, April 30, 2006

Even though I can't remember the last time I was really, really crazy about a new Neil Young record, and that includes Prairie Wind, (which still leaves me unmoved months later) I still care enough to notice that he's back with a new one and is getting some hype because it's apparently strongly anti-Bush and anti-war. I seem to recall our Neil was a big supporter of the Reagan administration, which was almost as despicable as our current one but now almost seems benignly naughty in comparison...but hey, one thing long-time fans have learned, if anything, is not to expect consistency from the erstwhile Bard of Topanga County.

Part of this hype machine is a website where you can go listen to a stream of this new album, which I'm listening to even as I type, and I can tell you two things right off the bat: one, the lead cut "After the Garden" is as melodic as anything he's done since perhaps Ragged Glory, and like that elpee has its drive and that Ol' Black gnarrrg guitar sound. Two, I really, really wish Neil would get over larding his tunes with group vocals for him to shout bromides over, and that he would take that horn section and put it back in cold storage. Still, that lead cut sounds good, and I'm going to give the whole thing a good long listen.

Also, here's the requisite blog and MySpace site.

Edit: After listing to the whole thing once through, two tracks stood out (and there were at least a couple more which I liked): "Families" and especially the mournful, almost "Don't Be Denied" (from Time Fades Away- put that G-darn album out on CD, Neil!)-ish "Roger and Out".

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Let's geek out for a moment, shall we?

After reading the latest issue of Daredevil, (review coming forthwith) which contains yet another appearance of the Kingpin of Crime, I began to wonder: As many of us know, Kingy began his four color crime career as a Spider-Man adversary, but years later, Frank Miller co-opted him into his epic DD run and he stuck to the point where he is arguably the most well-known of ol' Horn-head's Rogues Gallery, with Bullseye a close second. Now, my question is this: How many more times has this sort of thing happened, at least in Marvel history? I remember Electro going over and fighting DD a few months after his debut in Spider-Man, and the Sandman went from Spidey to the Hulk several times in the late 60's, but I can't think of a case in which a major villain has gone from one comic series to another and become the most popular adversary. Can you, my esteemed and learned comics scholar blogging colleagues, think of another example?

And while I'm at it, whilst I was looking through the Daredevil covers to find the one posted above, I noticed this:

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Uh...DD was wearing his shades under his mask?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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June Carter Cash in her Mitch & Mickey-inspired late 60's phase.

In which I take a look at certain movies I've viewed through the auspices of that most wonderful online DVD rental service.

It's been a while since I did one of these, and I have a bunch of them to cover, so please forgive me if I go into even less depth than usual. Been catching up with the Oscar nominees, to see just how good they were.. but I still haven't seen Capote or Brokeback Mountain. ** Means I saw it on cable TV. Letter graded for your convenience.

Seems like nine times out of ten, when a movie has that SERIOUS FILM aura about it, it takes itself so seriously that it becomes oppressive, but not this one. I knew George Clooney could direct after viewing Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but he really knocked this one out of the park- nicely placed and brilliantly imagined, even filtered through the smoke-filled black-and-white of everyone's memories of the era. He's helped a lot by a great cast, especially David Strathairn as Ed Murrow. Frank Langella gives a nicely nuanced perf as William Paley as well, and that Clooney guy isn't bad either. Believe it or not, I'm not old enough to have witnessed Murrow's heyday firsthand (I do remember Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley, though) so I kinda wish it had gone into a bit more depth...but this one's just fine as it is. Not one I'm going to watch again and again, but it probably should have taken the Oscar. A

Even though Johnny Cash is one of the two musical entities, along with the Four Lads from Liverpool, that I usually blame for making me such a Mr. Music Head via "Ring of Fire", I kinda dragged my feet on viewing this big expensive biopic. River Phoenix just doesn't look like Cash, not hardscrabble and jowly enough, and frankly Reese Witherspoon is too perky-cute to be a convincing June Carter despite her Southern belle pedigree. But I couldn't hold out for long, because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (people around where I lived ate it up and asked for seconds). And y'know what? It wasn't all that bad. Of course, Hollywood had to make it a big overheated love story, and that's what dominates although there are some interesting re-enactions of life on the road and in the studio in the 1950's...but that wasn't compelling enough so pretty much the last hour of the film is Cash pining for Carter and wallowing in drug-fueled self-pity. But of course, he got the girl, God bless him. One compelling subplot, the conflict between Cash and his apparent jerk of a father, is referred to throughout but doesn't really get resolved, and sometimes I got confused about exactly what year we were seeing- sometimes the clothes and cars and such just didn't seem to jibe. I'm quibbling, I know. I'm sure the producers did their research, and I'd love to know what the fact/fabrication quotient was, but it was a bit jarring seeing Shooter Jennings, playing his father Waylon, with 1970's hippie hair in the early-mid 60's- which may be the case, I don't recall seeing any photos offhand. The casting bugged me throughout- Ginnifer Goodwin is good in a thankless role as Cash's longsuffering and impatient first wife (some have said she was portrayed in a poor light, but me, I could see her point of view), as is Robert (Terminator II, X-Files) Patrick as the jerky dad and Shelby Lynne (!) as his Mom...but the actors they rounded up to portray Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Buddy Holly and others couldn't look less like their real-life counterparts. I know, who cares...but this sort of thing takes me right out of a movie. Phoenix, even though I've been cutting on him, actually gives a darn good performance, especially when he's making music- the scene where he plays "Folsom Prison Blues" for Sam Phillips for the first time was galvanizing in how he started so tentative but suddenly became angrier and more intense, very nice job, and Witherspoon really inhabits the June Carter-ish character she was playing. Walk the Line is a high-quality Hollywood entertainment product, well worth your time. But I remain somewhat unmoved by it all. Maybe it will grow on me with subsequent viewings, If I care to do so. What I really want to see is Cash's 1970's TV show re-released on DVD. B+

This was amazing visually. I loved almost everything about the character designs, as well as the city. But while this animated machine looked stylish and streamlined, it sputters because it's lubricated with pure sap. Every frigging soft-headed feel-good heartstring-tugging Hollywood life lesson cliche is jammed into the derivative script, and it makes it a bigger chore to sit through than it ought to be. I was surprised to see a voice credit for good old Marshall Efron, he of the late, lamented (by me, anyway) Marshall Efron's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School series which aired ungodly early on Sunday mornings in the mid/late 70's. C+

Kinda like Young Guns mixed with Goodfellas, I guess, as the frustrated son of a mobster (played by Barry Pepper) entrusts a shipment of mob money to one of his screwup friends, who promptly loses it in a small Midwestern town, and complications, as they say, ensue. Good cast (John Malkovich! Dennis Hopper! Vin Diesel! Seth Green!), good performances, credibility isn't terribly strained, I liked- but I was in a good mood. YMMV. B+

This one squanders a decent perf by Kiera Knightley by way of needlessly aggressive, jumpy, showoff MTV-style visuals. Some of this was watchable, and the subject of the film, the real-life Domino Harvey, seems like she was one heck of an interesting person...but it got really tiresome after a while. If you like Knightley, you'll want to see it but everyone else beware. C-

Cutesy spy-movie action thriller as Brangelina play a married couple who are unaware that they are both really competing contract killers, until of course they unknowingly attempt to carry out a hit on the same target. Sometimes, loud explody films like this, where the plot is hinged on escalating unlikely coincidences and misinformation, get on my nerves but I was entertained throughout so it was OK, I guess. Vince Vaughn, the Tom Arnold of the Aughts, is sometimes amusing. I don't see me watching this one very often, although if it comes on Cinemax at 1 AM one of these days... B+

Don't be a neglectful father, or Martians will attack and you'll lose everything! Aw, I know, it's more complicated than that but not much. Again, great visuals, especially the terrifying initial Martian attack, but I never bought Cruise for a minute and the story just kinda petered out in the last half hour or so. C

Ah, the one that took the statue. A great cast manages to wrestle down a heavy-handed (Racism is BAD! WE KNOW! WE KNOW!) and often ludicrous (I'm thinking of the Matt Dillon rescue scene, maybe the most blatantly obvious plot twist in cinema history) script and manages to get us caught up in the events anyway. Don Cheadle is typically great, and Dillon surprises as a troubled, bigoted LA cop, even making him sympathetic after all is said and done. Worth a viewing, I think, although I was curiously unmoved after I watched it. I don't think it was better than Good Night and Good Luck, either. A-

I never read the book this was based on, so I was coming in cold. Many have raved about this film, but I never really got caught up in it although I do think director David Cronenberg makes some germane statements about violence and its effect on people's lives. Part of the problem for me was that I never could buy the whole small-town setting- Cronenberg just doesn't seem to have a feel for the way smalltown people talk, think and act, and I never for a minute felt like I was watching anything but actors playing these kinds of people. Of course, it didn't help that Viggo Mortensen was as stiff as a barn timber as he played the lead. Ed Harris wasn't given a lot to do except act low-key and scary, and William Hurt, at the end, gnaws the scenery with an overripe performance as some sort of mob boss. The film kinda picks up steam as we get a surprisingly neat resolution, but I was disappointed in this one, which struck me as kinda like Out of the Past if Frank Capra directed it. B-

Conversely, I didn't expect anything from this one but the worst, and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of eye-rolling and groaning on my part. The script wasn't great- kinda simplistic, plus I didn't care for the rewrite of Doc Doom's origin, (but that's something only a fanman like me would care about) and I thought it was a mistake for Ioan Gruffudd to play Reed Richards as such a bumbling nerd. But heck- the effects were passable, the film was rarely dull, and God help me, I kinda liked it. I'm getting softheaded in my dotage, I guess. Which is not to say that I hope they make any more. B

My TCM viewing has slacked off a bit, but I sat down and got interested in this episodic pre-WWII propaganda piece about a submarine full of Nazis that is forced to shore on the coast of Canada, and their subsequent flight from the authorities. Part of the kick I got from it was the odd casting- Laurence Olivier, for example, as a straight-outta central casting French Canadian fur trapper (who was not strictly from commercial, I don't believe) named Johnnie, or Leslie Howard as a genteel writer who the Nazis encounter in the Canadian Rockies. Also on hand was Niall McGinnis, whom I'll always remember as the evil Dr. Karswell in Curse of the Demon, who plays a Jerry who's not quite down with the Fuhrer's master plan and pays a price for it, Raymond Massey, who plays a key role at the end, and Glynis Johns, known to all Batman TV show fans as Lady Penelope Peasoup as well as the suffragette banker's wife in Mary Poppins. All this casting trivia aside, this benefits from an intelligently written and subtle script which makes many a good point about issues which are still, sadly, issues today. If you see this airing on Turner one of these days or nights, it's worth a look. A-

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I haven't done this in a while, so I think I'll run down my list of comics I'll be getting as soon as my DCBS shipment arrives.

DAREDEVIL #84: Brubaker & Lark's dreary DD in jail debut continues. Wish I could work up more enthusiasm, but I can recall a time when ol' Hornhead used to have some fun as he fought crime.

MANHUNTER #21: I wish I could get the back issues I don't have, so I can get up to speed. Anyway, it's One Year Later, but except for Chase having bad taste in sack buddies, nothing much seems to have changed.

BITE CLUB: VAMPIRE CRIME UNIT #1: As I recall, I wasn't especially overexcited by the first series, so I'm at a bit of a loss as to why I signed up for the sequel. Guess I was in the mood for some Chaykinsnark, and honestly, even though I still don't think he's especially right for this type of story, I kinda like David Hahn's art these days.

HELLBLAZER #219: Here's another book which is still readable, and I'm still interested, but I'm not breathlessly awaiting each monthly installment.

TESTAMENT #5: I tried to drop this title, but the order was already in place for this and #6 so I'm stuck I guess. I'll try to make the best of it.

NEXT WAVE #4: At least Ellis isn't as cynical as Frank Miller. Yet.

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD VOL 1 TP: Yes, I'm finally getting this.

MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST VOL 3 TP: Here's another one that I don't recall why I ordered it but I'm thinking perhaps it has the Spirit/Escapist story. Y'know, I still haven't finished Kavalier and Clay...

SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #4: Finally, one I'm actually looking forward to reading! Then, I suppose I'll have to persevere until Seven Soldiers #1 finally comes along.

POLLY & THE PIRATES #5: I watched a great deal of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the other day, and was reminded of this series. Why, I cannot say.

SOLO #10: DOn't know jack diddley about this Scott fella, and the preview pages I saw over at PopCultureBuzzscopeShockedelica were a mixed bag, to put it kindly.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON #4: I'm kinda looking forward to this one, too- the last couple of issues have been pretty darn good.

And that, as the pig says, is all, f-f-folks!

Friday, April 21, 2006

By the Raggedy Rings of Raggador, it's time once more to gaze into the Unseeing Eye of Jaybacardio as we viddy another installment of the BACARDI SHOW NUDE NEW COMICS REVIEW!

What she brung and what I sung, weeks encompassing April 2 through 20.

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Luke Ross
So I'm bored with Hex going up against corrupt town bosses or officials, and what do we get? A corrupt nun that runs a town instead! Adding a love interest (that I wasn't aware of in my admittedly tenuous knowledge of Jonah's past history) does spice it up a bit, and the resolution wasn't as much of a fait accompli as previous issues have this was one of the best issues yet. Still, artist Ross depicts our boy so much like Clint Eastwood that what with all the nuns running around I couldn't help but be reminded of Two Mules for Sister Sara...and I doubt that's what Graymiotti had in mind. A-

S: Wilson; A: Matt Smith
Typical. Last time out I expressed my disappointment with this stillborn adaptation in snarky style, so I guess I should report that I found this final chapter a bit more rousing than the previous five. Maybe if I hadn't already read the novel and saw the craptacular film, I'd have been more favorably disposed. But, as they say, if its and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a safe and happy Fourth of July. Or something like that. Again, read the novel and skip this. C+

PLANETARY 24 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Warren Ellis; A: John Cassaday
This is the very picture of streamlined storytelling economy as Ellis manages to seamlessly pick up all the long-simmering plot threads and advance his plot, even if he's perhaps the only person who recalls all its ins and outs, and even works in a number of references to long-ago issues past. Jakita, the Drummer and Snow confront Warren's James Bond anagram John Stone, and we get the skewed origin of his Fantastic Four anagram, known here simply as the "Four". Typically well-illustrated by Cassaday, the past master of freeze-frame action sequences...and is it me, or does he channel the Bryan Hitch/Paul Neary style in the Four's origin? Oh well- it is frustrating that we can't get a monthly, or bi-monthly even, shot of this still-excellent book, but I'm perfectly content to enjoy it as it comes. You may already be aware of it, but here's a pretty thorough Planetary site.A

S: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi; A: Guy Davis
Okay, Mignola, you can do whatever you want to Liz or Roger or even Abe, but LEAVE KATE CORRIGAN ALONE! Aw, I kid- this is less a standalone story as it is a continuation of previous B.P.R.D. miniseries, as agent/historian Corrigan goes in search of a rare tome in a small French village which can possibly bring the Roger the broken homonoculus back to life, and encounters a chap named Thierry, who has a weird haircut and an even weirder library. After a tentative beginning, Arcudi has hit his stride- all the characters are well handled and nicely dialogued- or perhaps I'm just used to him being around by now, hard to say. Guy Davis is still doing the best work of his career. Even though it will never be able to match a Mignola Hellboy story, its sister publication has developed into a solid read all its own. A-

S: Warren Ellis; A: J.H. Williams III. DC/Wildstorm, ($2.99)
Well, you weren't expecting a happy ending, were you? Good, because we didn't get one. I've read here and there about this ending being an example of the dreaded Women in Refrigerators school of plot resolution, but I don't buy it- who else's death would have provided any sort of impact? And it's not like any of the victims, and that includes Jones himself, were simon-pure anyway. It was unexpected, surprising, nasty and brutal and while it does make me sad due to the loss of an interesting character, it was satisfying for that reason. Taken as a whole, this mostly depressing exercise in nihilism all dressed up in Ian Fleming/Dashiell Hammett clothing is probably the best thing Ellis has attached his name to in years, and that includes Planetary, simply (or perhaps not so simply) because this is more grounded in human emotion, and kudos to Ellis for extending himself a bit beyond the detached air he's displayed before.of course, none of this would resonate at all without the outstanding graphics of Williams, who is able to take the scripts and enhance them, taking them out of the realm of the written word and bringing them to squalid life. My, I'm waxing all poetic, aren't I? Anyway, great series and bring on #7! A

FABLES 48 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha
Mowgli gets center stage this issue, as his search for Bigby Wolf leads him to engage a battle to the death with the leader of a Russian wolf pack, in a nicely done and very savage scene. For once, I thought Buckingham and Leialoha did a great job. For contrast, we get an interlude with Rose Red and Bigby & Snow White's kid pack, what implications are there, who the heck knows. If you know what I'm talking about in regards to any of this, then you'll understand that this is another solid issue that advances the story along in fine fashion. If not, next review, please. B+

S: Andrew Cosby, Keith Giffen, John Rogers, Mike Lieb. A: Basil Wolverton, Paul Reinman, and a whole bunch of unknown illustrators
No comic this trivial should risk such a title. Do I detect, with this and Marvel's Romance Redux series, a trend a-birthing? Once more, the Boomers take another bunch of obscure public-domain reprints and re-dialogue them, with scattered chuckles and groaners throughout. My favorite was the last story, something about a mystic and a ordinary guy who looks like a roughed-up Jimmy Olsen, and time travel via hypnotism- but Ward throws a bunch of jive-talking and shizzle-dizzle in the mix and I couldn't help but laugh as the bowtied fella macks on a lady with "I'm yo candyman, girl, whiff on this -pssshhhh- my breff don't even stank!" Your mileage, as the saying goes, will vary. It's always great to see Wolverton art under any circumstances, but this kind of hijinks is about as inessential as it gets. Save your money and buy this Powerhouse Pepper reprint book instead, it's twice as funny. C+ (Original grade B)

S: Steven Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan
Two issues down, and I'm still on the fence, I'm afraid. It's hard to take such a stick as the lead character tends to be and make him interesting, but Seagle and Cloonan acquit themselves well on that score- plus, Seagle's given him a compelling supporting cast, and that's usually half the battle. As always with Cloonan, the art is worth the price of admission...but Seagle's going to have to come up with some more clever plot twists to really grab me. A-

S/A: Paul Pope with Jose Villarrubia
Honestly, this isn't really all that different or better, plot-wise, form your run-of-the-mill Elseworlds story...but the difference-maker is Pope's unbeatable ability to bring his stories to kinetic, frantic life and wrap you up in them, almost making you an active participant. You sense this future Batman's desperation as he races across rooftops with attack dogs in heated pursuit or struggle along with him as he desperately strives to preserve his identity against someone with mindfucking "latent clinical hypersensitive persuasive ability", and this sort of storytelling chops makes everything Pope does must-read, as far as I'm concerned. Unless he botches the ending next issue, and I seriously doubt he will, this is already a shoo-in for (at least) my year-end best-of. A

S: Peter Milligan; A: Nick Derington, Mike Allred
Here's another contender for that list; Milligan, unconcerned with canon or continuity except (and loosely at that) with his own stint writing X-Statix, is giving us one of the freshest and most fun stories to come from Marvel in a good while now, and the Derington/Allred team are providing imaginative visuals. Certainly the most atypical yet best Dr. Strange story in a hell of a long time, and I'l tell ya- if X-Statix had been this good during its run, I wouldn't have dropped it as soon as I did. Perhaps I'm just tickled to see the return of U-Go Girl. A

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bam! Biff! Pow! Time once more for
Frustratingly brief comments about floppy pamphlets I have purchased and perused from the period that encompasses 2 through 18 April. Not just for kids anymore.

100 BULLETS 71 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso
Just when I was beginning to wonder why I was sticking with this book, Azzarello delivers a knockout scene between psychopathic brute Lono and the conniving Megan Dietrich. Then, we go back to the other ongoing storyline involving a meat processing plant worker who has been the recipient of one of Agent Graves' briefcases, and once more I'm in Whothewhatthe land. B+

THE WINTER MEN 4 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Brett Lewis; A: John Paul Leon
Gorky Park meets Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sort of a "Day in the life" episode as nominal hero Kris and "colleague" Nikki spend a day escorting a black market software seller of some dubious nature, and generally performing the sort of tasks that presumably all good Russian gangsters perform, carrying on an ongoing conversation which is alternately amusing and often very clever in Lewis' fractured English/Russkie scripted dialect. Often a bit hard to follow, true, but at the end of the day I came away entertained by all the character stuff and atmosphere, and a bit shocked at the surprising outcome. Once more, Leon gives us another exceptional effort; like Risso on 100 Bullets, he's invaluable as our guide through the Land of Convoluted Plotting. A-

DMZ #6 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli
Back to the big overarching plotline, and I was a lot less engaged this time than I was with last issue's one-and-done character piece. I am still no less convinced of the validity of the premise- I mean, really, how the hell could you have what is practically the nerve center of arguably the most powerful country in the world secede, and not see that country collapse? I mean, telecommunications, the arts, the ocean docks and airports, the frigging Mets, Yankees, Knicks and Rangers (The Giants and Jets are presumably safe in Jersey)?!? Of course, we're not really shown how the rest of the country is getting along, now are we- I suppose the Yankees are now the San Antonio Yankees or some such. Wood's too good a writer not to have thought all this out, but I just can't see it based on what we've been given so far. Either way, it's just too far-fetched for my increasing skepticism to bear, and if not for Demo and Local I would have bailed long ago. What's a poor cynic to do? B-

SHAOLIN COWBOY 5 (Burlyman Entertainment)
S: Geoff Darrow, Andy and Larry Wachowski; A: Darrow
Anytime you get this much of Darrow's insanely meticulous art, you can never complain with too much legitimacy. But really- this much absurdity without the saving grace of a coherent plotline is like eating cake icing and washing it down with Jones creme soda...after a while, one wants something a bit more substantial. Plus it's hard on the teeth and stomach, but I digress. But boy howdy, this is really good icing! A-

S/A: Nick Bertozzi, Mike Dawson, Dean Trippe; Cover: Hope Larson
Two reasons to pick this up: Dean Trippe's enjoyable Butterfly story (most of which I'd already read online) and Hope Larson's lovely-if-strange and very colorful cover. We also get a somewhat amusing, albeit crudely drawn, tale about a superhero convenience store, admittedly a clever idea, and another about a schoolteacher with robotic arms which is even more lifeless and stiff, art-wise, than its predecessor. Caveat emptor, as the saying goes. B-

SUPER REAL 1 & 2 (Super Real Graphics)
S/A: Jason Martin
If good intentions netted you an Eisner or a Harvey, then this would be a shoo-in- and this account of a group of character traits who are assembled for what appears to be a Real World-type reality show, but is in actuality someting more sinister, has its moments for sure- the concept is clever enough, and there are some fine satiric shots taken at the usual suspects: the Administration, TV Execs, bimbo starlets, etc., etc.- but there just aren't enough of them, nor does the Humberto Ramos by-way-of Ted McKeever art, with its multitudes of Photoshop cut-and-pasted facial expressions and figures (and how do those girls stand up on those ankles, anyway?) make it any easier to read. Martin shows some promise, I think, perhaps more as a scripter than an illustrator, and despite what I've said I do believe this is worth your time, if the premise sounds interesting to you. Better things may be on the horizon, and maybe even in this book if he keeps at it long enough. C+

That's all for now; next I'll opine upon Batman Year 100 3, Desolation Jones 6, B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine #1, and many other titles you've probably already read weeks ago.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Y'know, it occurred to me the other day that I'm always talking about albums from the 70's, like the Graham Central Station elpee a few posts ago, and it must seem that I never listen to anything that's less than 30 years old. And while it's true that 70's albums do monopolize a great deal of my headspace, I do listen to newer stuff fairly often...and I think I'll make one of those lists that we all love so much. I think I'll call it


Not in any particular order, unless you consider "order I thought of them" as a valid category.

I had been aware of Mark Everett aka "E"'s music for a long time and had listened to nearly all his albums, both as E and with Eels, but this was the first one which stuck with me. In this effort, E continued to work out recent tragic events in his life, but this time he set his impressions to some of the most varied music of his career. While it does often remind me of Beck's Odelay in its overall sound and the quality of Everett's voice, practically every cut boasts an infectuous melody or beat as well as a number of sonic tricks and clever lyrics- and sometimes, the results are startingly beautiful, never so much as on the perversely vulgar and forlorn "It's A Motherfucker". As is Everett's wont, the subject matter of most of these cuts leans towards the downbeat, but often it's just so darn catchy that it rarely matters. First heard this one via my son, and I rarely go very long without listening to it.

This one's also a vote for Andy Sturmer of the late lamented Jellyfish, who co-wrote, produced, and played on practically every cut. Sturmer is a pop-music polymath, and he gives this material a stylistic diversity that I suspect the girls couldn't or wouldn't achieve on their own- from the 80's style synth-pop of "Tokyo Nights", Wings-ish ballad "Thank You", to the swoony ballad "Angel of Love" with a trombone solo that just kills me every time, to hyperactive J-Pop exercises like "Planet Tokyo" and "K2G", just to name but a few of the colors in Andy's palette. And, of course, the ubitiquous glam-stomp of the "Teen Titans Theme" which reminds me just a smidge of the Sweet. Still, despite Sturmer's guiding hand the girls' personality manages to come through, making this an overall coherent album that rewards repeat listening.

Acoustic troubador Sexsmith's second album, produced by Mitchell Froom with a relatively restrained hand (more on that later, with Los Lobos). Sexsmith is an excellent songwriter with a nice sense of melody and a economic way with words, and while there have been many fine songs on his subsequent albums, this is the one in which (in my opinion) the most and best can be found. Highlights include the surprising, and lovely, story-song "Strawberry Blonde", heartbreaking "So Young" in which Froom adds a barely-detectable cymbal hiss in the background which gets steadily more audible as the song goes on, providing an odd counterpoint to the beautiful melody and providing it with a sense of urgency; and the Randy Newman-ish "Pretty Little Cemetery".


Paul's previous two efforts, 14 Songs and Eventually, sounded unsure and compromised despite a couple of good cuts on each. Since this one, Westerberg has pretty much said the hell with it and has cranked out a handful of raggedy releases, emphasizing chaos and fuckall over songcraft, mostly to those albums' detriment. But this one, oh, this one- I think he cared here, and he had a producer in Don Was which would let him step out on a ledge once in a while while keeping him honest instead of sawing all his rough edges off a la his work with Bonnie Raitt. I get a sense of the old, yearning Paul of tracks like "Left of the Dial" and "Unsatisfied", and after the tentative double-ballad shot at the beginning he rips off 8 out of 9 killer songs with great melodies and clever lyrics and even some sloppy stuff in "Best Thing That Never Happened". Sorry, just can't quite warm to "Lookin' Out Forever", which sounds like a 14 Songs leftover. Nobody's ever going to be able to agree on Westerberg's disappointing solo career, but for my money, this one was the best.





















Yes, I know, I'm not finished. I got a late start so I'll do the rest tomorrow. I'll get around to answering some of the great comments as well. I've got some honorable mentions in mind, too.

Of course you know that I'm not necessarily saying that these are the best of the last 10 years, just the ones I've derived the most pleasure from. By all means, let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Iron Man, Iron Man/Does whatever an iron can...

It never fails. No sooner do I announce a hiatus than I get inspired to post something, and off I go. Anyway, consider that one a retroactive hiatus, subject to resumption at any time, and besides, I have reviews to write in a few days anyway so its days were numbered. Onward I go now.

This morning I was clicking around the ol' interwub, and happened to see where that Doane fella posted a few of what he considers to be remarkable Iron Man comic covers, inspired by Tom Spurgeon's posting of a early 70's vintage IM cover, and the subsequent conclusion that there haven't been a whole lot of really good illustrations adorning the fronts of ol' Shellhead's namesake periodical. And so, in typical lemming-like fashion, I thought I'd see for myself and post ones that caught my eye, a la ADD, and see if anyone agrees or disagrees with my observations.

Which is not to say that I disagree with ADD; some of the covers he selects don't quite yank my crank as much as they do his, but I can see where he's coming from on each of them.

And now, to test your patience further, let me set this up with a personal reminisce. I don't really remember the first Iron Man story I ever read; I think it was this one: Tales of Suspense #64, which featured the rematch between Hawkeye, the Black Widow and IM. It's here my memory gets fuzzy because I read many, many pre-1965 Marvel stories via the late 60's reprints featured in Marvel Tales, Marvel Collector's Item Classics aka Marvel's Greatest Comics, and Fantasy Masterpieces, and so I distinctly remember reading this one and this one. But I think the first one I ever actually posessed was #64, and a few more TOS's after that. My comics budget was kinda limited to the good graces of my parents back then, ya know. Anyway, I kinda-sorta liked IM- not as much as some, but more than others. Kids like giant robots and such, and I liked when he would go up against the Crimson Dynamo or Titanium Man, and the battles against the Mandarin and the Melter were highlights as well. I espcially fondly recall a two-parter where Melter managed to cut him off from his current suit of armor and he had to don the old gray duds to defeat him, done with all the ponderous pretentiousness Marvel could muster. After that, I bought a few issues of his post-TOS solo series; I liked the early issues the best but after a while the art got really bad and the stories were just not all that interesting to me as a early teen. Later on, mostly thanks to the good will David Michelinie engendered with me on his stints writing Unknown Soldier in DC's Star Spangled War Stories and Swamp Thing, I began to pick up his late 70s-early 80s run, which sported workmanlike art by Bob Layton mostly which didn't thrill me much but like most fanboys I got real interested in the Tony Stark-Alcoholic storyline and picked it up for a good while afterwards. I think #156 was the last one I bought on a regular basis, and to the best of my recollection I haven't bought one since.

Scrolling through these covers, and I limited myself to the post Suspense, pre-Heroes Reborn run, they are indeed generally a most uninspired lot, loaded with all kinds of blurbs and word balloons and pretentious titles and stuff designed to make them grab the attention of the potential customer, but really all they achieve is a general morass of clutter that works against itself. Corporate comics at its worst, especially in the 80's and early 90's.

So now, without any further ado, here is a gallery of Iron Man covers which caught my eye. Of course, make with the clicky to see 'em bigger. All covers courtesy of the indispensable Grand Comics Database, because I don't think I own a single issue of Iron Man.

First, this cover from Iron Man #2 by EC great Johnny Craig, who worked briefly for the House That Jack Built in the late 60's. Problem is, he was kinda deliberate in his work habits and wasn't able to maintain the schedule that Stan wanted him to, so he was soon gone. But I had several of the books he drew, and I thought thet were very nicely done in a style that was kinda unusual for Marvel in those immediate post-Kirby days. This cover is a good example, I think, of the "triangle perspective" rule in page composition- a nicely posed, subdued Shellhead in the foreground, frightened girl (Pepper? I forget) at the viewer's right, and the Demolisher robot on the left half, one two three. Nothing wow-inducing, just a solid piece of illustration from a seasoned professional who should have gotten more work.

As everyone knows, Gil Kane came over from DC in the late 60's, and by the early 70's had been appointed Marvel's de facto cover artist, a good choice given his dynamic style. Still, whether from the workload, the cover dress style in effect then, or editorial interference, many of his covers from that period are somewhat generic-looking and unimpressive. This one, however, isn't one. I like that telescoping perspective which draws the eye towards the melting Iron Man, and the villain in the foreground in a classic Kane pose. Too many effing blurbs and word ballons, though, which was a common problem with covers of that period. Not that I liked the recent Marvel policy of dull, static painted pinup covers, either- for the record.

One of the few Layton-era covers I liked, and I think it's because of the way that black background sets off the figures of Doc Doom and Rust-pants charging into each other to do battle. I had this one, and seem to recall some sort of time travel scenario, but that's all I remember.

Obviously, Barry Windsor-Smith got behind with the rent or wanted to buy a car or something, which would explain his slumming on stuff like this. To me, this is an arresting image, making me wonder who tore ol' Shellhead apart like that, and I appreciate the lack of verbiage. Adds to the mystery.

This is an even rarer 90's cover which grabbed my eye- if you squint, it looks just like Steranko, especially in the Mandarin's pose and the design of his tunic, with those symmetrical yellow stripes. Closer inspection yields one of those awful-looking signature boxes (a pet peeve of mine, nine and one-half times out of ten: those cheesy-looking boxes in which artists affix their initials or signatures, sometimes made up to look like parchments or other stuff. But that's a rant for another time, perhaps.) with the names "Ryan" (?) and inker Bob Wiacek- good job, gentlemen.

Finally, a couple of things I noticed as I skimmed over the gallery:

Kids, they used to call this "The Dreaded Deadline Doom". I've no doubt that some editor or another got in a bind and authorised a reprint of #9 in issue 76. But you'd think they coulda at least got a new cover, instead of recoloring and re-dialoguing the old one! Oh well.

And finally:

No comment is necessary, here, I think.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

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Hello! Long time no blog, I know. Lots of reasons for that, or at least a lot of self-justifcating ones, but be that as it may I just haven't had the moxie, the sand, the sugar to provide you all with my barely anticipated pearls of wisdom, and for that I am truly sorry. That's assuming you were concerned in the first place. But I'll tell you what- let's just look at this as a sort of spring break for me, and when I return I'll try to get back in the saddle, and hopefully I'll be ready to once more wax all effusive about the various topics of the day in the world of comics, as well as music and movies and other stuff in general. Or not.

And no, I'm not in Florida. The only way I could go to Florida right now is if I were kidnapped, and even then good luck getting ransom money.

Good song: "God Dog" by the Incredible String Band.
Good comic: Desolation Jones #6.
Good movie: Night Moves with Gene Hackman and a teenage (thanks, Tom!) Melanie Griffith, if you can imagine such a thing.

Good bye. For now. Let the hiatus continue!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Neat, huh? This is all but two of my 25 all-time favorite albums. They didn't have The Beatles Again aka hey Jude (I substituted Revolver) or The Great Lost Kinks Album, because neither exist in the CD format. Also, the Donovan listing is for Cosmic Wheels only; it was paired in a twofer with the inferior Essence to Essence and that's the only image that came up.

I might do some of the honorable mentions at some later date. And no, I haven't forgotten about Beowulf Dragon Slayer, I still intend to do issues # 5 & 6 soon.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Saturday night's all right for the second installment of

In which I make regrettably brief comments about floppy pamphlets I have purchased and perused from the period that encompasses 20 March through 1 April. No fool-ing.

S: Peter Milligan; A: Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred
Y'know, this is one seriously weird story. It's also a pretty good litmus test to measure your sense of humor and open-mindedness about Marvel's superhero characters, since even jaded ol' me is a bit tweaked by seeing Doc Strange's noble mentor, the Ancient One, portrayed as a scheming badguy. But Milligan's just having fun, and as long as it's this entertaining that's just fine with me- lotsa chuckles (the Piano Player? Geez...) and oddness, plus he sees fit to bring back a character I liked a lot back in the day s when I actually enjoyed his X-Statix. Dragotta and Allred's collaboration on art brings out the best in both- the latter's layout style is livelier, but the former brings a touch of character to the proceedings. A-

THE ATHEIST 3 (Image/Desperado)
S: Phil Hester; A: John McCrea
The Best Comic That Warren Ellis Never Wrote belatedly continues, and it has been so long since I had read #2 that I was somewhat adrift for a little while there. Still, the lead character is interesting and there's a nice little battle of words between Our Mister Sharpe (the title character) and a surprising someone who's possessed by the ringleader of the "Dead folks possess the living and live in Winnipeg" scheme.I don't recall McCrea's art being this sketchy in his Hitman salad days- guess stylistic experimentation is all the vogue these days. B+

TESTAMENT 4 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Douglas Rushkoff; A: Liam Sharp
Four issues in, and once more the bible stories- complete with an ass-kicking Abraham and big stone guys whith glowing mouths who eat people- are more compelling than the earnestly derivative Orwellian stuff that is presumably the meat and potatoes of whatever Rushkoff is trying to do here...and I'm sure that's not what he wants. Perhaps if an artist whose style is less stiff and dull drew it, I might like it better, but one doesn't, and I don't. C+

S: Rick Remender; A: Harper Jaten
A Christmas story, of all things- either overdue or way early but kinda enjoyable in its way. New artist Jaten's work is a lot more reined-in than his predecessor's, not as frenetic but he(?) does give us some nice fantasy-type illustrations. Next issue, we get someone else, whose splash page on the inside back cover looks pretty swell. And so it goes. B+

S: Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco
Still under his self-imposed empathy curse, John encounters an old acquaintance who helps him get some information to move the story along to its next destination. Not as rote as I make it sound- Mina writes good dialogue, and the identity of the medium was a surprise. Manco slops ink all over everything, and tells the story adequately. B+

DAREDEVIL 83 (Marvel)
S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark, Steven Gaudiano
Thought I was reading Gotham Central for a second there! Anyway, solid all around as DD deals with the aftermath of Foggy Nelson's death, mostly by kicking the shit out of the Owl and pissing off other inmates. While I really wish that someone would do something, anything different with this character, this is still involving and I am curious about how this will get resolved.A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Khari Evans
Wow- not only do we get some vindication for Paste-Pot Pete, I mean the Trapster, but we also get a Doctor Bong (from Howard the Duck, remember?) appearance- and that's not all! The blah first issue is but a distant memory, as subsequent issues have been significantly better all around, featuring actual wit instead of smirkiness. I was hoping this would be this good. Now I'm hoping it doesn't let me down. That's life, I guess. A-

LUCIFER 72 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Peter Gross, Aaron Alexovich
Lucifer's farewell tour continues, as we get three nicely done scenes with some of the women in his life: Queen Izanami, Elaine Belloc and, of course, Mazikeen. Wish I could think of more to say, but I can't, except all of this will have (I'm sure) impact on the next three issues ('cause that's all there is left) and if you've been a regular reader of the singles or trades you'll like it just as much as you have the others. A-

Thursday, April 06, 2006

For lack of a better title, it's the
What aye bot and wot aye thot, weeks of March 20-April 1.

Stave One.

ZOMBIE TALES: THE DEAD 1 (Boom! Studios)
S: Michael Alan Nelson, Keith Giffen, Johanna Stokes, Jim Pascoe, John Rogers, Andrew Cosby; A: Lee Moder, Ron Lim, Cynthia Martin, Don Simpson, Chris Moreno, Ed Tadem, Fabio Moon.
Third in Boom!'s zombie anthology series, which manages the unlikely objective of giving us somewhat novel takes on that played-out genre (if you want to call it that). As always with anthologies, there are peaks and valleys: peaks include Nelson and Moder's clever "zombies in the Vatican" tale and Stokes' not-as-bad-as-it-oughtta-be Romero-meets-Madagascar effort. Nestled comfortably in the middle are the final chapters of "I, Zombie" and "Dead Meat"; the latter is cutesy in its Shaun of the Dead way, benefitting from some loosey-goosey but still solid Moon art and the latter kinda plods to a inconclusive and unsatisfying conclusion. Rogers and Tadem's "Four out of Five" is well-drawn but the admittedly novel reveal at the end is also, well, let's face it, kinda stupid. Down in the valley resides a tale which features that ol' reliable, the "kid in peril" subgenre (and its equally cliched "dream sequence" second cousin) to no great effect, and the clumsy-looking art doesn't salvage it. I still am bored stiff, if you'll excuse the pun, with zombie stories but you gotta give the Boomers points for trying. B

S: Alan Moore; A: Gene Ha, Art Lyon (color)
Someone should send a copy of this to the braintrust behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; 'cause this is the way to evoke sepia-toned nostalgia for a time and a place that never existed. It helps, but it isn't necessary to have been, a Top 10 ongoing series reader to appreciate what Moore and Ha have done with this intelligently crafted Sci-fi/Adventure pulp homage- Moore's dialogue and script are (as far as I can tell) note perfect, even when dealing with the tricky relationship stuff, and I hadn't realized how much I missed his deft hand in dealing with the feel of this series. Ha fills every page with painstaking, clever detail, never going overboard with the sight gags and kinda-sorta character cameos like Jerry Ordway did when he attempted to fill his predecessor's shoes in Beyond the Farthest Precinct. And props to Lyon for coloring this in dingy grays, blues, beiges, and olive greens but never letting it look murky or monotonous. As great as this is, it's still makes me a bit sad because barring some sort of uncharacteristic reconsideration on Moore's part, we'll never get to experience what he would have had in store for not only this cast, but the later, "modern-day" cast as well. This one, kids, lives up to the hype. Now that this is in a more affordable softcover, you should get this. A+

S: Greg Rucka; A: J.G. Jones, Wade Von Grawbadger
In which Rucka, who had a pretty darn good stint writing Batman in Detective Comics, and Jones, who has been damned impressive on Black Widow, Marvel Boy, and Wanted (indeed, that series sole saving grace) take a pretty darn good idea and botch it with stupid cheesecake posing and a unintentionally ludicrous finale. The premise would seem to be hard to beat- a young girl (who fortunately/coincidentally has had some schooling in obscure Grecian tradition) has committed multiple murders in Gotham City for an unknown reason, then flees to an unnamed city (Washington, DC?) that houses the Themysciran embassy (not a regular Wondy reader, can't ya tell) with the Batman hot on her heels, hunts up Wonder Woman and petitions her for Hiketeia, which (as the jacket states) is " ancient Greek ritual that bonds master and servant in a relationship of mutual respect and servitude". Essentially, if Bruce wants the girl, he has to go through Wonder Woman to get her, because apparently protection from harm is another aspect of this ritual. Anyway, things go pretty much as you'd expect, until Batman hits upon a clever enough solution which just struck me as silly. You'd think that someone with Batman's backstory would be a bit more sympathetic to his quarry, especially when her reasons for what she has done become known...but hey, we wouldn't have a story if everyone talked and listened to each other, now would we? It's as if someone came up with the idea for the striking soft-core BDSM-flavored cover and assigned Rucka to write a story around it, and it was the best he could do on short notice. Jones, for his part, contributes a lot of detailed and dynamic, if a bit chaotic sometimes, art- but he totally ruins the scene in which the murderer petitions Diana by rendering the Amazon princess in a series of stiff, posed pinup-girl stances that are totally inappropriate for the mood and feel of the scene. Given the pedigree of talent involved, not to mention the format and the cost (even in softcover), I expected a lot more than this disappointing exercise. C+

S: Javier Grillo-Marxuach; A: Les McClaine
Chapter two details the MM's attempt at rescuing the disagreeable Sensei Ping, with sidekick Wendy trying to make up for her shortcomings last issue, with predictably disastrous results. While nothing earth-shaking, this is still fast-paced and fun and very well illustrated by McClaine, whose clean and graceful style is easy on my eyes- even though I kinda hope he gives us less white backgrounds next time. A-

W: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
The law of diminshing returns is in full effect, it seems, on this- absolutely nothing of any consequence, as far as the supposed big picture of this whole series goes, happens...but it's all done with such style and panache that it's hard to be angry even though it's pretty plain that if ever there was a textbook case of all sizzle and no steak, this is it. Guess Ellis is just taking the piss, but it's not really at our expense since he knows that loudfastdumb is always better than ploddingdulldumb, and that's what we're getting. Kinda like the Ramones, I guess. An annoyance: I like X-refugee Tabitha a lot, but that "Tick Tick...Boom" schtick has already worn out its welcome. Immonen helps a lot with his new Simonsonesque stylings which keeps everything moving along at a good clip. I'm still on board, but eventually I'm gonna want something besides bang with my three bucks, and I sincerely doubt that we're gonna get it here. B+

S: Grant Morrison; A: Frank Quitely. Color-Jamie Grant.
This story is purely Bridwellian, what with Atlas and Samson and Ultra-Sphinxes and Lois with Super-powers (Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!) for a day...and it's telling, the contrast between what Grant's doing with his corner of the franchise as opposed to the dismayingly cynical and sarcastic Miller take on the other. Grant celebrates the po-faced wackiness of the late 50's-early 60's, where Miller has nothing but contempt for it, and as far as I'm concerned there's enough cynical sarcasm in the world- which is why I don't buy his All-Star Batman. Grant's just relaxing and having fun, and while I'm sure we'll get around to the more serious stuff eventually, for now it's enough to sit back and watch him go. Thanks to Quitely, the art is never Boring- even though he lets his bull-necked stylistic physiologies get the best of him sometimes, this is graceful, almost poetic, and often quite beautiful to behold. The last three pages are absolutely wonderful. Also, gotta give props to Grant (Jamie, that is) for some bright and beautiful colors. I don't think this is going to be Mindf*ck Morrison, not here, and maybe that's mildly disappointing...but this is shaping up to be a really entertaining read, and that's enough, I think. A

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco
All right, let me just say this up front: I could have really done without seeing Chase shagging Kate Spencer's toy-boy, who's a decent enough fella, but Cameron, at least the Cam I'm used to, has higher standards than that. I guess. I seem to recall her boyfriend from her much-missed solo series wasn't exactly Mr. Wonderful either. Still, I was like "MY EYES! MY EYES!". Huh? Oh, the comic. Well, it's my first One Year Later story, and IIRC I was kinda curious about how this book would change as a result- and from what I can tell is the answer is not at all. It's still a plain and simple spandex wallow with fights and cameos and the occasional clever quip and all the other requisite elements, competently if not exceptionally well-drawn. Seeing Director Bones all made up to look normal was kinda clever, and that whole scene was the highlight of the book. So, I still don't have any insight yet as to why I'm as interested as I am. But interested I remain. B+

FINALLY got some of these posted! Seven down, eight to go!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Somebody doesn't want me to write reviews, I don't think; after last night's debacle, I had geared myself up for the task once more, clicked on the bookmark for "manage posts" (I did have a few lines saved)?and once more, Blogger is down for maintenance. Bah.

So, in the meantime, I see where the Eisner nominations have been announced, and like any comics blogger worth his/her salt I will run through the categories and pick the one that I would vote for, if I had a vote of course. Which is, as always, not to say that I think it's the best- I know, I know, just once, you say, I wish JB would pick the BEST of something- but it's the one that I liked the most, assuming I've read it, of course.

Enough with the preamble, here we go:

MASTER NOMINEE LIST, 2006 Eisner Awards

Best Short Story

"Blood Son," by Richard Matheson, adapted by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood, in Doomed #1 (IDW)
"Monster Slayers," by Khang Le, in Flight, vol. 2 (Image)
"Nameless," by Eric Powell, in The Goon #14 (Dark Horse)
"Operation" (story #5), by Zak Sally, in The Recidivist #3 (La Mano)
"Teenage Sidekick," by Paul Pope, in Solo #3 (DC)

Right off the bat, my authori-tie is called into question; of the five nominees, I,ve only read two of them- the Le story in Flight and the Paul Pope story in Solo- and I wasn't particularly impressed (even though it wasn't bad) by the latter. Problem is, the Pope story wasn't my favorite in that issue either- the OMAC remix was. So here's a qualified selection, right off the bat.

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)

The Bakers, by Kyle Baker (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Ex Machina #11: "Fortune Favors" by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister (WildStorm/DC)
The Innocents, by Gipi (Fantagraphics/Coconino Press)
Promethea #32: "Wrap Party" by Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III (ABC)
Solo #5, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)

Again, of the five, I've only read two. The Promethea issue was wonderful, but somewhat anticlimactic. The Cooke Solo was indeed outstanding, so that's my pick. I still fail to see what's so impressive about Ex Machina, besides the art.

Best Serialized Story

Desolation Jones #1-5: "Made in England," by Warren Ellis and J. H. Williams III (WildStorm/DC)
Fables #36-38, 40-41: "Return to the Homelands," by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha (Vertigo/DC)
Ex Machina #12?14: "Fact v. Fiction," by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister (WildStorm/DC)
Y: The Last Man #37-39: "Paper Dolls," by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka, and Jose Marzan Jr. (Vertigo/DC)

Wait, shouldn't there be five nominees? Anyway, at least I've read a couple of them. Desolation Jones is head and shoulders above the rest of this lackluster quartet.

Best Continuing Series

Age of Bronze, by Eric Shanower (Image)
Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Marvel)
Ex Machina, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister (WildStorm/DC)
Fell, by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (Image)
Rocketo, by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy)
True Story, Swear to God, by Tom Beland (Clib's Boy Comics)

I wish I had read Rocketo; I keep thinking I?ll pick up a trade eventually. TS: STG is always a delight, but I've only read the second and third trades and not the first or the non-collected issues so I can't really cast a vote for that. Fell has been consistently good, so that's my pick.

Best Limited Series

Nat Turner, by Kyle Baker (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Ocean, by Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, and Karl Story (WildStorm/DC)
Seven Soldiers, by Grant Morrison and various artists (DC)
Smoke, by Alex de Campi and Igor Kordey (IDW)
Another short list! Turner is powerful, but unfinished, and the shoddy paper it's printed on colors my enjoyment. Ocean started strong but limped to the finish line. Seven Soldiers is also incomplete; that leaves the one I'd vote for anyway, Smoke, which was one of my best of 2005.

Best New Series

All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
Desolation Jones, by Warren Ellis and J. H. Williams III (WildStorm/DC)
Fell, by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (Image)
Rocketo, by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy)
Young Avengers, by Alan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, and John Dell (Marvel)

Edges out Fell and All Star Superman by a nose.

Best Publication for a Younger Audience

Amelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley (Renaissance Press)
The Clouds Above, by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics)
Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius, by Chris Eliopoulous and Mark Sumerak (Marvel)
Owly: Flying Lessons, by Andy Runton (Top Shelf)
Spiral-Bound, by Aaron Renier (Top Shelf)

I think Owly should just be placed in a Hall of Fame, given a lifetime award, or something in this category, 'cause it's a perennial. Spiral Bound was good, but a bit overlong.

Best Anthology

The Dark Horse Book of the Dead, edited by Scott Allie (Dark Horse Books)
Flight, vol. 2, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Image)
Mome. edited by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)
Solo, edited by Mark Chiarello (DC)
24 Hour Comics Day Highlights 2005, edited by Nat Gertler (About Comics)

Haven't read Mome. Yeah, I know, I know. Also have skimmed, but haven't purchased, the DH Book of the Dead- usually I wait until my LCS has a sale before I get these hardcovers. Flight was a vague disappointment (and I never did get around to giving it a proper review), so gotta go with Solo, which was always (until the last couple of issues) strong.

Best Digital Comic

Copper, by Kazu
Jellaby, by Kean Soo
ojingogo, by matt forsythe
PVP, by Scott Kurtz

Uh...Scary-Go-Round. Since that isn't nominated, I'll go with Kazu's Copper, which is nicely done.

Best Reality-Based Work

Embroideries, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
Epileptic, by David B. (Pantheon)
Nat Turner, by Kyle Baker (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Pyongyang, by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly)
True Story, Swear to God (Clib's Boy Comics), True Story, Swear to God: This One Goes to Eleven (AiT/Planet Lar), by Tom Beland

OK, here's a vote for True Story. Gotta get that first trade someday.

Best Graphic Album - New

Acme Novelty Library #16, by Chris Ware (ACME Novelty)
The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar (Pantheon)
Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, by Alan Moore and Gene Ha (ABC)
Tricked, by Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)
Wilmbledon Green, by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)

Top 10 was excellent, which I'll discuss as soon as I can get some frigging reviews written. I liked Wimbledon Green and Tricked, too. Rabbi's Cat looks kinda interesting.

Best Graphic Album - Reprint

Acme Novelty Library Annual Report to Shareholders, by Chris Ware (Pantheon)
Black Hole, by Charles Burns (Pantheon)
Feast of the Seven Fishes, by Robert Tinnell, Ed Piskor, and Alex Saviuk (Allegheny Image Factory)
Ice Haven, by Dan Clowes (Pantheon)
War's End, by Joe Sacco (Drawn & Quarterly)

Ice Haven, at least the version that appeared in Eightball, was one of the best comics I've ever read, and while I haven't read the collection I'll bet it didn't lose much, if anything.

Best Archival Collection/Project - Comic Strips

The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, by Bill Watterson (Andrews McMeel)
The Complete Peanuts, 1955-1956, 1957-1958, by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics)
Krazy and Ignatz: The Komplete Kat Komics. by George Herriman (Fantagraphics)
Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays, by Winsor McCay (Sunday Press Books)
Walt and Skeezix, by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

Ooh, this one's a toughie. And to be honest, I haven't actually perused any of these (which is not to say I haven't read the strips collected therein) but the handsome Peanuts volumes, so here's a qualified vote for the Little Nemo volume- those were some amazing comics.

Best Archival Collection/Project - Comic Books

Absolute Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC)
Buddha, vols. 5-8, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
The Contract with God Trilogy, by Will Eisner (Norton)
DC Comics Rarities Archives, vol. 1 (DC)
Fantastic Four Omnibus, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Marvel)

I'm a little reluctant to endorse the umpteenth repackaging of Watchmen, outstanding as I'm sure it was. I know those FF stories are great fun, as are the odds-and-sods contained in the DC Archive. Eisner's post-Spirit work has never really grabbed me, and I never finished Contract With God when it came out ages ago. Never been moved to investigate Buddha, the religious figure or the manga. Guess I'll have to abstain.

Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material

Cromartie High School, by Eiji Nonaka (ADV)
Dungeon: The Early Years, vol. 1, by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, and Christophe Blaine (NBM)
Ordinary Victories, by Manu Larcenet (NBM)
The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar (Pantheon)
Six Hundred Seventy-Six Apparitions of Killoffer, by Killoffer (Typocrat)

Haven't read any of these, either, darn it! The Killoffer volume looks interesting- I like his art. Pass again.

Best Writer

Warren Ellis, Fell (Image); Down (Top Cow/Image); Desolation Jones, Ocean, Planetary (WildStorm/DC)
Alan Heinberg, Young Avengers (Marvel)
Alan Moore, Promethea, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (ABC)
Grant Morrison, Seven Soldiers, All Star Superman (DC)
Brian K. Vaughan, Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC); Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC); Runaways (Marvel)

Gotta go with Interwub Jesus, for sheer volume even though Top 10 was better than anything Ellis did.

Best Writer/Artist

Geof Darrow, Shaolin Cowboy (Burlyman)
Guy Delisle, Pyongyang (Drawn & Quarterly)
Eric Shanower, Age of Bronze (Image)
Adrian Tomine, Optic Nerve #10 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #16 (ACME Novelty)

Ware is facile and accomplished, but his work comes across as sterile and uninvolving to me. Which is not to say that I don't wish I had a set of Acme Novelty Library. The other three don't move me much, so by default my nod goes to Darrow.

Best Writer/Artist - Humor

Kyle Baker, Plastic Man (DC); The Bakers (Kyle Baker Publishing)
Paige Braddock, Jane's World (Girl Twirl)
Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Oni)
Eric Powell, The Goon (Dark Horse)
Seth, Wimbledon Green (Drawn & Quarterly)

By a nose over O'Malley. I don't laugh so much at Scott Pilgrim as I observe with bemusement. Baker's Plastic Man got so dull and hackneyed I couldn't stand it anymore, and I have yet to sample The Bakers. Not familiar with Braddock's work, and I have yet to sample The Goon.

Best Penciller/Inker

John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); Planetary (WildStorm/DC)
Gene Ha, Top Ten: TheForty-Niners (ABC)
J. G. Jones, Wanted (Top Cow/Image)
Frank Quitely, All Star Superman (DC)
J. H. Williams III, Promethea, Desolation Jones (WildStorm/DC)

Williams is already one of the greats, as far as I'm concerned, and he's done nothing to change my mind yet. Strong field.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

Paul Guinan, Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate (IDW)
Ladronn, Hip Flask: Mystery City (Active Images)
Ben Templesmith, Fell (Image)
Kent Williams, The Fountain (Vertigo/DC)

Wish I'd gotten a copy of Heartbreakers, which I liked in floppy format back in the late '90s; Ladronn's work is lovely, but for some reason as he's progressed as an artist after his early Kirby-meets-Moebius style, he's grown less and less interesting to me. It doesn't help that I have no interest whatsoever in reading the exploits of a Hippopotamus private eye. Templesmith, out of all this group, has entertained me the most so I choose him. K. Williams is an accomplished illustrator as well.

Best Cover Artist

Frank Espinosa, Rocketo (Speakeasy)
Tony Harris, Ex Machina (Wildstorm/DC)
James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); Runaways (Marvel)
Jock, The Losers (Vertigo/DC)
Eric Powell, The Goon; Universal Monsters: Cavalcade of Horror (Dark Horse)

I love Jock, but Jean is the Lord God King of Cover Artists.

Best Coloring

Jeromy Cox, Teen Titans (DC); Otherworld (Vertigo/DC)
Steven Griffen, Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort (Image)
Steve Hamaker, Bone: The Great Cow Race (Scholastic Graphix)
Jose Villarrubia, Desolation Jones (WildStorm/DC)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #16 (ACME Novelty)

Hello? Dave Stewart? Oh well, Griffin's work was stellar on the tardy Hawaiian Dick.

Best Lettering

Chris Eliopolis, Ultimate Iron Man, Astonishing X-Men, Ultimates 2, House of M, Franklin Richards (Marvel);
Fell (Image)
Todd Klein, Wonder Woman, Justice, Seven Soldiers #0 (DC); Desolation Jones (WildStorm/DC); Promethea, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, Tomorrow Stories Special (ABC); Fables (Vertigo); 1602: New World (Marvel)
Richard Starkings, Conan, Revelations (Dark Horse); Godland (Image); Gunpowder Girl and the Outlaw Squaw, Hip Flask: Mystery City (Active Images)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #16 (ACME Novelty)

No comment, really- I like Klein's stuff a lot.

Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition

Dawn Brown (Ravenous, Little Red Hot)
Aaron Renier (Spiral-Bound)
Zak Sally (Recidivist)
Ursula Vernon (Digger)

Renier's the only one I'm all that familiar with, which I suppose is why these people are listed. I HATED Little Red Hot, IIRC, so I guess I've heard of her too.

Best Comics-Related Periodical

Comic Art, edited by M. Todd Hignite (Comic Art)
Comic Book Artist, edited by Jon Cooke (Top Shelf)
The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth and Dirk Deppey (Fantagraphics)
Draw!, edited by Michael Manley (TwoMorrows)
Following Cerebus, edited by Craig Miller and John Thorne (Aardvark-Vanaheim/Win-Mill Productions)

Gotta go with the Journal, which is still too expensive for me to pick up on a regular basis but seems to be having a real renaissance lately, thanks to Young Mahster Deppey. Sure wish I could write for it someday-!

Best Comics-Related Book

The Comics Journal Library: Classic Comic Illustrators, edited by Tom Spurgeon (Fantagraphics)
Eisner/Miller, interviews conducted by Charles Brownstein (Dark Horse Books)
Foul Play: The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s EC Comics, by Grant Geissman (Harper Design)
Masters of American Comics, edited by John Carlin, Paul Karasik, and Brian Walker (Hammer Museum/MOCA Los Angeles/Yale University Press)
RGK: Art of Roy G. Krenkel, edited by J. David Spurlock and Barry Klugerman (Vanguard)

Foul Play is the only one I've read from cover to cover, but I'm gonna go on a limb and cite the Krenkel volume- I've always loved his art and there's a ton of it in there. He was a major influence on one of my absolute faves, Mike Kaluta.

Best Publication Design
Acme Novelty Library Annual Report to Shareholders, designed by Chris Ware (Pantheon)
Little Nemo in Slumberland, designed by Philippe Ghuilemetti (Sunday Press Books)
Promethea #32, designed by J. H. Williams III and Todd Klein (ABC)
Walt and Skeezix, designed by Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)
Wimbledon Green, designed by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)

Although it reminded me more than a bit of a Southern Baptist church hymnal, I gotta go with Green- that was a swell-looking package.

Hall of Fame

Judges' Choices: Floyd Gottfredson, William Moulton Marston

Voters will choose four from among:
Matt Baker
Vaughn Bode
Wayne Boring
Reed Crandall
Creig Flessel
Ramona Fradon
Harold Gray
Graham Ingels
Robert Kanigher
Russ Manning
Mort Meskin
Marty Nodell
Gilbert Shelton
Jim Steranko

Shelton would be my fifth choice. So what happened to some of the nominees from last year that didn't make the cut? Are they forever ineligible now? I seem to recall Nick Cardy, Gene Colan, and Frank Robbins in that number. And once more, I ask- why does it have to be four and four only? Don't they ALL deserve to be honored? Effing hall of fames...

Hey, I see that Blogger's back up, so disregard what I said in the first paragraph. I'll try to squeeze out some reviews tomorrow night, if you can stand the wait (he says, rolling eyes)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Not happy. I had six reviews down, and was preparing to post, when Firefox crashed when I did a spellcheck and I lost them all. And it's too late to start over so I'll just have to redo them from scratch later. Damn. When will I learn to write these things in Word or something and copy-paste?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Yeah, yeah, I know. No reviews tonight either. I didn't get caught in a cyclone or's all Ed Murrow and George Clooney's fault. I watched Good Night and Good Luck. Liked it, too. If I ever get around to doing another Johnny B Heart Netfilx, I'll tell you how much.

I suppose I could have been watching the NCAA championship, and I may check it out here in a minute, but really I'm not interested. Hope Florida wins, because I tend to root for the SEC (UK fan, y'know) but I won't cry if UCLA wins either. Whatever the outcome, I didn't finish in the money in my bracket pool, so to hell with it.

In the meantime, I would like to let you know that the new Johnny Bacardi's New Comics Revue is up over at Most of the reviews reviewed therein are repeats with some minimal editing on my part, but I did slip one ringer in there just to keep everyone honest. So anyway, go, look, comment. I'm still not crazy about the title, but I have nothing but love for the sweet banners the graphics guys have whipped up for me so far.

Good night, and gokouun o inorimasu.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I was gonna write reviews this afternoon, and honest to God I started to, but then I took a nap and then watched the DVD of The Brothers Grimm with Mrs. B, who hadn't seen it, and then the internet went out, and a line of storms with tornadic activity and thunderstorms and dogs and cats has been passing through my area and the internet just came back on and it's 9:50 so...

I'll try to get them done tomorrow night.

Unless I'm whisked away to Oz or something.
Your Mother Should Know.

Actually, it was my mother that showed me the latest issue of AARP magazine (No, I'm not a subscriber. Yet.) that cover-features Sir Paul McCartney, who turns 64 in June.

It contains an article about the Cute Beatle by former (Current? I rarely read it anymore) Rolling Stone writer Anthony DeCurtis. Here's the online version.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Yeah, I know, long time no post. I started to cobble together a list of my 25 favorite album releases of the last ten years, but petered out at about #14 so it remains in draft limbo.

Got a fair-sized stack of new comics yesterday; hey, why don't I list them?


I also went to the LCS and picked up

MANHUNTER #20 (Dylan...and Chase. Eww.)

But uf cuss I will review them here eventually.

I also picked up a copy of Chuck Prophet's 2002 release No Other Love. Damn good. Maybe I'll add it to the list.

If you, like me, are fascinated by the history of and bands that appeared on the Beatles' Apple records label, I found a site called Scraping the Barrel: An Apple Singles Collection Catalogue. Despite the fact that the writer (quite curiously) makes it plain that he has little interest in the US releases and prefers the UK, it's still got a lot of pics, reviews and info.

Got to go. More later, perhaps.