Saturday, August 30, 2008


Here's a special in-between shipments edition of CoaSRJ, that more-or-less regular JBS feature in which I write shortish reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, in this case, to be specific, the period from approximately August 22 through August 30, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #1: With all due respect to Hawkman and Hawkman fans, there is no more fucked-up continuity in the history of comics than that of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Since day one, a long line of creators from E. Nelson Bridwell and Curt Swan through Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum on through Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Olivier Coipel have tried to give comics fans a Legion title that would be aesthetically satisfying (i.e. in synch with current comics trends) and sell in enough numbers to make the bean counters happy while still maintaining enough continuity between versions to pacify the hardcore longtime LSH fans, a difficult task if ever there was one. So now, here's Geoff Johns, a bit of a dab hand at handling books with large casts of characters, to try and sort it all out and perhaps give us a Legion everyone can live with. Again. Not a bad start, actually; while Johns jumps around from setting to setting, alternating between a destructive infodump starring Superboy Prime in the 30th Century's Superman Museum and a beleaguered Legion facing forced disbandment (again) at the behest of the United Planets, and while there is a lot of overheated dramatics it still moves along at a speedy clip- not recent Brave and the Bold speedy, mind you, but a brisk pace just the same. George Perez, pretty much the point man when it comes to drawing massed throngs of superpeople, does his thing here with, strangely enough, slightly less cluttered results- instead of 12 people per panel, we only get 7, and instead of 150 chunks of rubble, we get only 65- that sort of thing- and it's a lot more readable because of it. I especially like Perez' disheveled, stringy-haired Brainiac, who's just as grouchy as ever but becomes the most compelling character by default. I don't know how exactly this fits in with current LSH continuity (since I haven't read an issue of that ongoing since it was in its early teens) and don't really care, and I'm only a bit more interested in how it fits in to the whole Final Crisis tapestry (don't see how just yet, except in the once-more rebooted Legion that will presumably result at the end of the day), but I thought this was a fine opening chapter and I want to see where it goes. Docked a notch for Perez drawing Kinetix in her late-DnA period Amazon Human Breadfruit Woman look. B+

FINAL CRISIS: REQUIEM: Basically a retelling of the death of the Martian Manhunter, with some details that were omitted from Final Crisis, and an account of the aftermath of that death. Better than it sounds; J'onn's struggle against Libra and the villains is gripping, and most of the sentimental stuff afterwards isn't overdone. Of course, it helps that it's Doug Mahnke illustrating it all; not only is he capable of expressing a range of emotion with his powerful style, but he has a passing familiarity with most of the characters via his stint on JLA. It wouldn't surprise me if the events of this issue, one or two in particular, don't come into play before this whole Crisis thing is done. A-

FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #1: This is somewhat better than the turgid Spectre feature that ran in Tales of the Unexpected last year; better drawn for sure but still steeped in the sour tone and drab carnage that dragged the previous series down so much. The Crispus Allen Spectre, still a waste of a formerly good character and still looking hell of stupid with that Van Dyke, gets to get all wrath of God on our old buddy Doctor Light and another supervillain I'm not all that familiar with named Effigy. Batman badguy, perhaps? Also, the new female Question is mixed up in the proceedings as well, to not particularly good effect, scuffling with a group who seems to have dug up the Spear of Destiny, aka All-Powerful Plot Resolver Device #12,762. I have to believe that these two were among the character restarts that Dan Didio deplored so publicly the other day. Anyway, what this series has to do with the Final Crisis goings-on is still up in the air; we do get a scene in which Spec tries to take down Libra for killing J'onn J'onzz, but of course he's ineffective- there's still too many comics in the series yet to be published! In spite of all my grousing, this was fairly readable- Rucka's good enough to at least keep slight material moving at a decent pace, so it's at least that. Of course, there are still four or so issues to go, too. C+

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #'s 15-17: Whoops, I think I might have bailed a little too early on this one- after Brubaker left with the conclusion of "7 Capital Cities of Heaven", I knew that Fraction would be gone soon after, and just figured it was the beginning of the eventual decline and cancellation under lesser talents. Looks like I was hasty. #15 is another flashback to a previous Iron Fist, reading like a parable and ultimately quite moving in its resolution, much to my surprise. It's enlivened by the best Khari Evans art I've seen since Daughters of the Dragon. #16 brings back original series artist David Aja for a last hurrah and gives us some great character stuff as we see where Danny Rand's head is at following the events of "Capital Cities". Also, Fraction delivers one last wrinkle before bowing out: in this issue, Danny comes to the realization that nearly all previous Iron Fists died at age 33, then is presented with a surprise birthday party featuring a cake with large "33" candles on it. Dah-dah-DAHHH! #17 is the first issue by new writer Duane Swierczynski (with whose work I am completely unfamiliar) and artist Travel Foreman (with whose work I'm only slightly more familiar), and it's OK as far as it goes; we get a bit more present-day stuff with Danny, neither here no there, and an extended Sergio Leone-inspired flashback featuring another outstanding art job by the great Russ Heath. The modern-day scenes are fine, but don't really tell us much about the new team- a toe in the water if you will. Foreman's more modern, "kewl", overrendered and kinetic style will still probably be a good fit but suffers in comparison with the old master, Heath. As it turns out, I'm still interested in this book after all, and I guess I'll have to jump back on the bandwagon, at least until the ride stops being fun. #15: B+ #16: A- #17: B+

JOKER'S ASYLUM: THE PENGUIN: Is it just me, or is Jason Aaron hot in here? Haven't been reading everything he's done lately (I refuse to jump on board the Ghost Rider train), but everything I have read has been smart and sharp, and you can't find a better example of this than this- what, on the surface, seems to be just another Penguin story but because of the skill of both writer Aaron and artist Jason Pearson (I still wish Redbird had been completed), it becomes a solid character-driven story, more in-depth than, say, your average episode of Batman: The Animated Series. I especially liked the occasional glassy-eyed, expressionistic rendering of Pengy; made him look like Tony Millionaire drew him. The ending was just a shade too ambiguous for my liking- SPOILER HERE- is the girl going to spend the rest of her (probably) short life in that cage? Who feeds her? Cleans up after her? If she was in a basement room or attic or something, that's one thing, but she seems to be in a main office of some sort. Oh well. SPOILER OVER. The positives far outweighed the negatives for me in this very good one-off. A-

VINYL UNDERGROUND #'s 1-11: "First impressions are often the truest"...I've heard this all my life, and it's often accurate. But this series, I think, is an exception. When I first saw the ads, it was some time around the time I had just read Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram, (a bit late, I know) and it reminded me a lot of that series, with the hip, cynical young lead character, the supernatural themes and the British locale. It also gave off a strong Hellblazer vibe. But while there are definite similarities, VU manages to wear its influences on its sleeve, yet folds them in quite smoothly, and the result is very readable. As so many comics do these days, this reminds me of a TV series pitch...but this is a series I'd like to see. DC calls them "occult detectives in London", but really they're a Scooby gang: Morrison Shepherd, a Jarvis Cocker or Richard Ashcroft lookalike, constantly referred to as "Mozz" by most of the cast, (because everybody loves Morrissey but me apparently and it makes him sound even more kewl and British) is the Fred of the group, a former cocaine addict, underground DJ, and son of a famous footballer who has serious mother issues (his is missing, and his search for her informs many of the later issues). Although he has all these quirky character traits, he really doesn't do much of anything except perhaps provide the axis around wich the others revolve. Another quirk is that he leaves an Otis Redding vinyl 45 at the scene of crimes he and the Gang solve, an expensive calling card if ever I heard of one. His cohorts include Leah King, a Barbie-doll beautiful morgue assistant (this comes in handy when stiffs from the weird mysteries come in) who provides the muscle (she is a brutally efficient fighter). She also moonlights as an internet model, pornstar and call girl of sorts in one scene in the middle of the first arc. "Perv" is a Mister Sensitive type, doesn't like to be touched, and also is extremely sensitive clairvoyant- he has possessed seizures that tip the Gang off to the upcoming storylines, that is, what they should investigate next. Rounding out the group is Kim "Abi" Abiola, Mozz's ex-girlfriend who is nothing less than an African princess in exile, her father being a powerful witch doctor- and she's psychogeographically sensitive to boot, which makes her sound like Hellblazer's Map character. I think mostly she's there to provide some sparks between Leah, Mozz and herself. Anyway, four very attractive characters with a wide variety of quirks to make them more interesting, check. Also serving as a father figure of sorts is retired gangster Tommy McCardle, who serves Morrison as a father figure of sorts, since Mozz's real dad is dead and his mom is god knows where. Police detective D.J. Caulfield, a Meshell Ndegeocello lookalike who is the usual recipient of all the Otis singles, provides a liason and source of information, although she is rarely happy about it. Other London gangster figures, neo-Nazis and a number of other seedy characters also make up the supporting cast. The two main story arcs in these were actually well-set-up; the first, in which Abi's witch doctor father is set up to take the blame for a child's murder, and it's up to the Gang to prove his innocence and get him out of prison. It's a fairly involved mystery, with a supernatural-tinged ending, and was a very good showcase to get to know the characters. The second involves a trio of university professors who are performing experiments on young women, and weaving a weird William Blake-inspired scenario as they do their ghastly work. It has some squicky moments, but I liked the British-ness of it all, Anglophile that I tend to be, as Spencer works in constant historical and geographical commentary- and the resolution was certainly unpredictable if not especially plausible. The last two issues to date deal with Morrison's search for his Mom against the background of a race riot in London; we get some flashbacks to his earlier life and some often oddly poetic moments as he sees and interacts with his younger self, something which has been a recurring thing during the course of the series. When I brought up VU on Twitter a while back, more than one commenter opined that it seemed like a "generic Vertigo book" and didn't read it- and I'm afraid I was guilty of that as well. And it's not a misconception; every character and every situation is redolent of many, many other past Vertigo series and storylines, and that also applies to the art- rather than the baroque, oddball style Simon Gane brought to his collaboration with Andi Watson, Paris, he (admittedly) tones it down and along with inkers Cam Stewart and Ryan Kelly gives us a really good Philip Bond impersonation, although truth be told I'm also often reminded of 1970's cover stalwart Ernie Chua (neé Chan) as well. Now, here's the thing- I don't necessarily mind derivative works of fiction, if a little wit, creativity and (most elusive) spark are brought to bear...Brian Wilson took Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" and made it "Surfin U.S.A.", and both were stellar. Marc Bolan was fond of doing the same; "Monolith", from Electric Warrior, is a complete "Duke of Earl" swipe, to name just a couple of examples over the years. I've always been fond of the saying that "creativity is the art of disguising your sources", and Si Spencer does just that for Vinyl Underground, but he manages to put it all together in such a fashion that it works very well with Gane & Co.'s assistance. I wish now that I had been buying this from the beginning, but of course that's besides the point. Maybe I could have persuaded a few people that this was worth their time, but who knows. Anyway, next issue, #12 (out in the next couple of weeks, I think) is the last and that's a shame- I wish this book could have gotten another year to get its feet under it. I suppose the first trade must not have sold that well, because thats generally how low-selling Vertigo titles earn their keep anyway. It would be nice if we could get a new original GN once a year with these characters, or something like that, since a monthly series is apparently not tenable, but I know better. This is a dead book walking, and there's no way the Scooby VU Gang is going to be able to rectify that situation. It's a pity. A-

Friday, August 29, 2008


Vinyl_Underground_#002_013 Vinyl_Underground_#002_014

Tonight's Female-centric exercise in brutality comes from issue number 2 of VINYL UNDERGROUND, the sadly canceled DC/Vertigo series I just discovered, late for the party, as usual. Administering the beating to these two Neo-Nazi bruisers is Leah King, the morgue attendant/slash internet porn star who knows how to bring the pain with panache. She's one of the British Scooby Gang that makes up the main cast of VU, which is a book that I'm right in the middle of writing about even as we speak! Click on the images to see them all bigger. Script by Si Spencer, art by Simon Gane and Cameron Stewart.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Posthumous BSBdG's go out to the late great JACK KIRBY, who would have been 91 today. I loved Ditko, I loved Gene Colan, I even loved Don Heck...but Kirby's was the first superhero art I saw as a young child, and it cast a spell on me that has lasted for 48 years. Here's Kirby point man Mark Evanier's post today, as well as Tom Spurgeon's mammoth art post that puts my little cover contribution to shame...

Hail to the King, baby.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Got my confirmation email today, so if all goes according to plan I'll be gettin' some new comics on Friday! And they are:

DELPHINE #3: Haven't had any Sala weirdness for a long time; this is a nicely rendered take on the Snow White fairy tale.

SCALPED #20: This promises to be a rip-roaring, hilarious look at the life and loves of young Native American buck Dashiell Bad Horse, who is cutting a trail of hijinx throughout today's wild west and leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake...huh? What? Oh, sorry. I got mixed up there. Never mind.

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #2: Now, this one does promise many yuks. Or at least some knowing chuckles. I keep expecting Super-Hip to pop up here; perhaps the Hope Estate isn't down with that.

MADAME XANADU #3: Man, talk about link rot- when I reviewed the previous issue a few weeks ago, I posted a link to a website that had a good picture of the Grampy character from the old Betty Boop cartoons, which was Amy Hadley's apparent art reference for Merlin. It's gone now, and I've been too lazy to find another. Oh, wait, I just did.

NORTHLANDERS #9: I miscalculated; I meant to go trades-only with this title and thought I had dropped it. Oh well, it will work itself out.

DAREDEVIL #110: Stay tuned as we remain on the edge of our seats, anxious to find out if Matt's allowed to smile this time out, and have nothing particularly shitty happen to him! Vegas oddsmakers place the likelihood at 25-1.

CATWOMAN #82: This title's ninth life is gone.

BLUE BEETLE #30: This is one reboot that they did right, Mr. DiDio. Just so ya know.
A quick announcement: most of you probably know this already, but I have decided that I want to do more music posting, and have created a blog for that very purpose. It's called Johnny Bacardi's Off the Record, and I have the first two posts up now. Basically, I plan to take a good, long look (more than a review, less than a novel) at albums out of my collection, not just vinyl, mind you, but releases from the last four decades, not only my beloved early-mid 70's. I can't promise how frequently I'll update it- I'm afraid they're gonna take days to write- but I'll try to get at least one a week up there. It's really gonna depend on how motivated and inspired I get. Anyway, hope you'll like it and add it to you Bloglines or Google Reader or whatever you use, that way you'll know when I've put something up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting is in order for illustrator extraordinaire Michael William Kaluta, who turns 61 years young today.

I've used this forum to opine and spotlight a great many artists in the last (almost) six years, but of all of them, Kaluta may just be my favorite. From the first time I saw his artwork, in DC's The Shadow #2, on through his multitudes of wonderful covers and illustrations, through Starstruck and other works, I have always made it a point to pick it up and never cease to marvel at his graceful style, highly redolent of the great pulp magazine-era illustrators and even farther back than that. It has wit, style, and sexiness, and his design sense is flawless. Of course, even the greats falter from time to time, and for sure he's done figures that didn't quite work or compositions that didn't come together as well as you'd hope...but they've been few and far between.

Here's one of a multitude of pages from Starstruck that blew me away; click to see it bigger. It's a conference-call type conversation between several of the characters, that takes place about midway through the first graphic novel. Notice the varied facial expressions, as well as the details around the edges of each panel, which help clue the reader in on who's speaking to whom:


Also, here are four pages from the 1973 Shadow I mentioned earlier, and the one which certainly grabbed my attention and made me a fan. SPOILERS, if you haven't read this issue! Even though this is early on in his career, there is so much going on in these pages, as the Shadow pursues and eventually puts paid to the killer that was hiding as part of a circus- the atmospheric, moody black night sky, with tiny pinpoints for stars (and for once the crappy 70's coloring doesn't really hurt all that much), the train, which evokes a lot of nostalgia, Hank Williams, all that- it's as if Hank did the music for a 40's noir- and perched incongruously behind the locomotive engine is a giant whale, providing humor. The standoff scenes have real tension, and combined with Denny O'Neil's terse dialogue, the merciless nature of the Shadow here is underlined perfectly. This stuff hit me so hard when I was 13, and I have yet to recover; I didn't know it until a couple of years later, but this looks like it could have been taken straight from the Pulps. Obviously, click the images to see them bigger (I've taken the liberty of "whitening" the page scans a bit):

One of the biggest thrills in my life was when I got to meet the man, at a Louisville toy and game convention in 2000. He was sitting there sketching when I approached, with large notebooks full of the originals of the various DC covers he'd been doing at the time for The Spectre, Books of Magic, and Aquaman. All hand colored with Dr. Martin's dyes, he said, and they were gorgeous. Of course, I couldn't afford- he was asking four figures for them- but I did spend some time browsing. He autographed my copy of the first Starstruck graphic novel, I shook his hand and tried to relate my admiration for his work (variations on which I'm sure he's heard from a thousand different people in a thousand different places) I've met some fairly well-known people, musicians, celebrities and such, but I was never as nervous as when I first approached this man. We made some small talk, I got my signature, and then I got the hell out of there before I became one of those people who linger long after their time has come and gone. I've had a little email correspondence with him since, here and there, and he is still every bit as gracious there as he was in 2000, but I'll never forget that meeting.

Anyway, I've gushed enough. Hope you've had a wonderful day, Mr. Kaluta. Thanks for the memories, and here's to many to come.

(Starstruck page and portrait pic ganked from the website of Todd Klein.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Here's something which occurred to me as I was rereading Final Crisis #3 on this fine Saturday morning. Most people who have written about and reviewed this issue are comparing pink-haired leather clad Mary Marvel (above) to Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones' earlier Marvel Boy adversary Oubliette aka Extermanatrix, below:

But really, really, it's not Oubliette aka Extermanatrix that she's supposed to be at all! Remember, the evil minions are all Fourth World characters re-bodied. And that makes Mary Marvel's look more applicable for:

MAD HARRIET of the Female Furies!

If you're looking for stunning insights, boy, you've come to the right place!

You may all now resume whatever you were doing.

Friday, August 22, 2008





Yes, it's still Ladies Night and the fighting's right, or something like that. Tonight's scrap comes from Avengers #83, cover dated December of 1970. This features, unless I'm mistaken, the first appearance of the Valkyrie- or WAS it? Anyway, she coerces the other female Avengers (Medusa, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow) into banding together as the "Lady Liberators", to overcome the male Avengers (and a group of hapless bad guys who happened to be in the neighborhood) and take over Avengers Mansion. Yeah, it's a hamfisted attempt to work the then-novel Women's Lib movement into a superhero story, and it's just as goofy as you'd expect. Still, it's a fun if dated little tale, and you gotta love that last panel. Again, ganked from scans_daily, and if you want to read the whole thing go here.

Script by Roy Thomas, art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


Time once more for CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE- (with capital letters, no less!) that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write shortish reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately August 7 through August 21, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

100 BULLETS #94: Yeah, "Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 6 issues". But this issue also gives us, even as Azzarello continues his maddening dance all around the clarity maypole, a great little scene in which the brutish loose cannon Lono squares off against sleek and sexy Dizzy Cordova...and it's as good a fight scene as I've seen in a comic (and no, I haven't seen any REAL fights) in quite a while, not to mention a very logical progression of long-simmering tensions. Good show. A-

AIR #1: We're not exactly in Coffee, Tea or Me? territory here as we get the adventures of a acrophobic stewardess (I'm kinda acrophobic myself, so I can relate) who gets mixed up with what at first glance seems to be terrorists vs. good guys on her plane, but soon gets a bit more complicated as no one seems to be what they really are, especially a handsome young fellow who claims to be from about what seems to be a half dozen different countries, and paranoia is the order of the day. G. Willow Wilson's script is an ambitious one, even though the airport/airplane setting reminds me quite a bit of many issues of the late, lamented-by-some American Virgin- and we all know how that one turned out. I do believe, though, that she has a plan and some ideas, and this is only the beginning. It could get quite interesting, I believe, if she can downplay the tendency towards fanfic-like situations (how many hospitals have you been in that provide for uninterrupted sex? I've never been in one) and dialogue (the line “You taste like the sky.” screams it), and (ironically enough) keep the story grounded. I found myself wondering about nitpicky things like how she keeps her job with all the running around through airports and different flights, and how such an acrophobic person could agree to jump out of an airplane with essentially a total stranger and not even seem to whimper (I'd be beating somebody up, let me tell you), also how handsome stranger seems to be able to board any flight he wishes, whenever he wishes...not to mention (and this is on the artist, I think) how he can get a "microchute" to open when it's underneath his sport jacket. Oh well. Speaking of the artist, I wonder what is it about the Vertigo imprint (or maybe the Vertigo editors) that seems to suck the life out of some artists who do work for it? While there are exceptions, take M.K. Perker here as an example- while his non-comics illustration work looks very interesting, on this title it looks like he's striving for a Phil Winslade or mid-80's Val Mayerik as inked by Craig Russell lefthanded look. It's awkward and oddly proportioned and over-rendered (despite a curious lack of shading and blackspotting) and almost the opposite of what you'd expect someone as accomplished as he apparently is to look. Never fails. Maybe he'll improve, too, or at least get more comfortable and less fussy with his approach. Who the hell knows. At least it's a Vertigo book, which means it might get at least 16 issues to get its feet under it before the inevitable canning. B-

BATMAN #'s 676-679: I think Grant Morrison must be a hell of a cook; certainly no one can recycle last week's (well, actually, the last decade's) worth of meals, I mean plots, like he can. And at the end of the day, that's what Morrison's doing- he seems to be determined to test the limits of the whole Batman concept, from day one to now, by introducing all the craziness and whims of fancy that writers and editors of all stripes saw fit to introduce (for varying reasons) in last seven decades...and so far he's getting away with it, despite a slightly disappointing reliance on the backbone of most Batman stories, at least in the modern era- question Bruce's sanity and/or present him with some sort of cataclysmic threat, have him down and out and tasting the bitter dregs, show him rising from the ashes to ultimately triumph, and oh yeah- the Joker. Got to have the Joker. Well, that's the backbone of most modern superhero stories, sans Joker (in most cases), but I hope you see my point. Grant's having fun and providing clever ideas (like Batman's "no Bruce Wayne" contingency plan) within the framework, but it's a frame I've seen used on many, many pictures before. Apparently penciller Tony Daniels and inker Sandu Florea's art education began and ended with Image comics from the mid 90's- they want to look so much like Jim Lee or Greg Capullo or J. Scott Campbell that it's kinda sad, really. Daniels tries, I think, to add some panache via shifting perspectives and random camera angles, but none of it feels organic or instinctive, but rather it just feels arbitrary and uninspired. It's mostly competent, but unexceptional and unexciting work. One can only wonder, I suppose, how memorable this series would be if a singularly talented creator (like J.H. Williams from a few issues back) had been on board from the beginning, to goose Morrison's complacency just a bit. Oh well, we simply have to get by with what we have, and fortunately it works well within its limitations. But it's far from over. B

THE BOYS #21: Of course the 9/11 setting is in poor taste; that's Ennis' entire modus operandi in regards to this book. That he manages to finesse it enough to where it comes across as fairly horrifying (in an of itself, and not because he chose to do it) rather than smirky is a testament to his writing chops. Otherwise, we keep getting dibs and drabs of backstory via Hughie and the Leader, and Darick Robertson continues to contribute good- not so good that it smacks you upside the head with its greatness good, but very good just the same- art. A-

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #2: Arcudi and Davis continue to do that thing they do so well, with lots of characterization and a generous helping of Indiana Jones-style crumbling temple action to boot. This is kinda review-proof as it goes; Arcudi is crafting great dialogue and pacing his story very well, and Guy Davis just can't do any wrong. If you're on board the B.P.R.D. train, then this is another satisfying chapter. A-

CRIMINAL 2 #4: Further proof of why picking up hitchhikers is generally a bad idea. Spotlight this time is on the unfortunate (well, he certainly seems so so far...) fellow who draws the Frank Kafka newspaper comic strip that has been referred to several times in previous issues. He gets in a bit of a sticky wicket this time, making what seems like a bunch of unfortunate mistakes- but who can say that they wouldn't make the same ones in his position. Anyway, we will see what we will see. As always, deftly scrpted by Ed Brubaker and impeccably drawn by Sean Phillips. A

FINAL CRISIS #3: The longer this goes on, and the more I see would-be naked-Emperor spotters opine, the more I'm convinced that this would have been better served coming out all at once, as a graphic novel, rather than in installments, where it's pretty much freaking people right the fuck out because they're only being given pieces of the puzzle in short bursts. Apparently these people have never read anything Morrison has done besides his JLA- this is Morrison's modus operandi when doing the sort of involved narrative that is his bread and butter. If you're unsatisfied by anything except the linear and demand neon-lettered resolution at every turn, you're bound for disappointment. Which isn't to say that this issue is perfect, far from it- there's a dogged ordinariness to many of these set pieces that one doesn't really expect from Grant; fan service perhaps, with the extended Wonder Woman/Oubilette Mary Marval fracas and all the Flashes running around. I'm afraid J.G. Jones doesn't help sometimes- from time to time he goes for the challenging camera angle, seeking to test his skills (I assume) and maintain his interest rather than help the reader suss out what's happening. Me, I think this is still a work in progress, and I'm being patient. Again, we'll find out in four more issues whether it's worth it. A-

HELLBOY: THE CROOKED MAN #2: OK, it was bound to be a bit of a letdown after the excellent first issue. Second of three chapters tend to be this way, I think. Hellboy and his new acquaintances set out to bury the formerly ensorceled father of one of them, and encounters creepy crawly resistance along the way until they take refuge in an old, crumbling church that has a blind minister living within. Of course, things promise to get out of hand at the end, and I'm still looking forward to the resolution although I hope it gets away from the slight predictability on display this time out. As long as Richard Corben provides more of his atmospheric visuals, I'm not worried. A-

JACK STAFF #18: I don't know if it's me or what, but Grist seems to be a bit on autopilot here. Granted, rote Grist is infinitely superior to 90% of what's out there, but I'm not getting the little unexpected delights and satisfying twists I was getting back in the old black and white days. Familiarity breeds...well, "contempt" is harsh and totally wrong, but perhaps "dissatisfaction" might be more apropos. Regardless, I still have high hopes for future issues, and while I would still hand the uninitiated a copy of Everything Used to be in Black and White before any of the Image stuff, I am far from done with this comic. B+

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #1-17, ANNUAL #1: I bought this title's predecessor, JSA, for well over 60 issues. I liked the characterization emphasis that co-writers Geoff Johns and David Goyer brought to the party, and it lasted a good long while with a rotating cast. Then, eventually, Johns (Goyer having bailed a good while back) seemed to be content with cranking out needlessly complicated superhero fights with cliched situatons and dialogue at the expense of the characterization I had previously enjoyed, and I, too, bailed. Then, after one of the Crisis series was completed, they decided to restart the title with its longer name and with a new number one issue, why I cannot say since Johns is still on board with a new artist. Funny thing is, though, there's also a renewed commitment (evidently) to the characterization that I grew to miss on the former title, with Johns taking the "society" part of the name literally and emphasizing family ties with the older members such as Wildcat, Flash and the Red Tornado. For the first few issues, we get to meet a lot of newish legacy characters (most probably introduced in the latter stages of the former title, or in one of the Crisis issues, I'm sure) such as Cyclone, a cute, chatty, endearing redheaded granddaughter of Ma Hunkle, the original Red Tornado, and one with the wind powers of the android version (it's done with nanobytes or somesuch); a twentysomething son of Ted Grant who turns into a cat person with abnormal strength and speed; yet another version of Steel, this one the grandson of the original who suffers a strange fate and fills the role of the requisite tortured superhero guy because of it; Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore) from the late, lamented-by-some Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. book, with a bigger role than she had before, and others. Less endearing is the 30th century Starman, who's stuck in our time and is batshit insane because of it (I always felt that the worst thing James Robinson did in his Starman was drop that hint that Thom Kallor was part of that particular legacy), and he mostly goes around spouting nonsense, eating sloppy joes and opening black holes for the Kingdom Come version of Superman to emerge from, and...well, let's just say that there's a hell of a lot of stuff going on here and let it go at that. It's a huge, sprawling cast, and Johns is doing a commendable job of giving nearly all of them respectable face time, and making most of them compelling on top of that. It's especially gotten interesting in the last four issues or so; Johns is expanding on the characters Mark Waid created for Kingdom Come, giving us the godlike Gog, who blissfully strides the Earth, granting the JSA'ers (well, most of them anyway) their fondest wishes- he handles the somewhat puzzled, often grateful reactions of the team members to his presence in engrossing fashion. Anyway, short story long, Johns is impressing me by the way he's handling this burgeoning group of characters and with this most recent plotline in particular. Never once have I found myself wishing he'd sacrifice a few to relieve the clutter. Dale Eaglesham is the regular artist, for the most part; he's got a meticulously rendered style that is occasionally too stiff for its own good but manages the neat trick of packing each page with a multitude of people and things and just plain stuff, and never evokes the far less readable clutter of a George Perez. His work has grown on me. A few weeks ago, an annual came out, which seemed to be designed to make the aging fanboys that grooved on the 1975 All-Star Comics JSA revival, not to mention the All-Star Squadron readers, happy- he had Gog deposit Power Girl back into that Earth-2 world in which the adult Robin was in love with the Huntress, the female Dr. Midnite was still alive, the Joker is old and decrepit, and so on. Jerry Ordway drew this one, and while his art was as mannered and lifeless as usual, it still fit the story well, as is his wont. It was a very readable "what if" kinda story, but of course it's going to be shoehorned in with all the Final Crisis satellite titles, as is the saga of the KC who the hell knows where it's all gonna go. Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that I was pleasantly surprised by the entire run- even when it got all angsty, and even when it devolved into mammoth superhero brawls, it was always interesting and well-done. So I think I'll have to get back into my Justice Society habit again, at least until the inevitable decline rolls around again. I hope it won't be for a long time. A-, Annual: B+. ETA: I had forgotten, but over a year ago I was sent a comped copy of #5 to review, and I did so right here. My opinion of the book has risen since then.

MANHUNTER #33: Looks like Kate is up against some mighty tall odds as she continues to investigate the girls with missing hearts along the Mexico/US border. Lots more cameos this issue as well, including an amusing exchange with Oracle, who winds up calling in some other Birds of Prey to help her out. Mike Gaydos' art still really hasn't grown on me yet- it strives for realism, or at least a J.P.Leon/Tommy Lee Edwards/Alex Maleev type of realism, but unfortunately so far all he's mastered is the sloppy ink line. Me personally, I prefer this style to the calculated slickness of many other DC/Marvel artists these days, but I can see why others might not like as much. Anyway, Andreynko has several intriguing plot threads lined up waiting their turn after this one's over, and I intend to hang in for the long haul with this book. Problem is, how long is long? B+

PATSY WALKER, HELLCAT #2: How in the world this manages to be so breezy and fast-paced, but so incoherent, is a puzzler. Perhaps LaFuente could help a bit more; he seems to get carried away with the breathless script and tries to match it pant for pant. Still, this is fun; the dialogue remains clever, the situations novel, and the art is awfully good-looking, especially as colored by Jon Rauch. I just wish Kathryn Immonen would just dial down the quirk, just a notch. B

TRINITY #'s 1-6: I went into this cold, not really having read a lot of the hype- don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting this. It's like there was a study group that was devoted to creating the most generic superhero comic book possible, and that's what this is- it's like Super Hero Comic 101 or something. I don't really think Kurt Busiek is untalented, far from it, when he's writing Astro City (the book he seems to care about), he's often engaging and clever (even though I don't buy AC anymore, go figure). When he's doing the major players for the Big Two, though, he's workmanlike and dull more often as not. It's a puzzlement, it is. I will say that I was interested for a couple of issues in the slightly clichéd Latina tarot reader whose adventures make up the back feature, but it's not long before she gets dragged into the same stale superheroics that plague the lead. I'm sure in a few more issues she'll be wearing a peekaboo cutout leotard and hitting people with her tarot deck or something. Mark Bagley is a solid craftsman (and a hell of a nice guy, judging by the telephone interview I did with him a few years ago), you can tell by what he does here...but what he does is merely competent. There's no real flair or enthusiasm apparent, no matter how many poses remind me of Gil Kane here or John Byrne there. Fabian Nicienza fares no better on the backfeature. You'd think that DC wold make damn sure that such a high-profile project as this aspires to be would make top-notch, inspired, committed (to something besides a paycheck) creators mandatory, but this is utterly devoid of anything that even remotely resembles innovation, flair, or excitement. It's just empty, toothless spandex posturing and that's a damn shame. Mike Sterling says it gets better in another six issues, but I'm not sure I want to wade through the next five to find out. D+

WONDER WOMAN #'s 22, 23: Well, this one got a little needlessly gnarly towards the end, with betrayals on top of plot twists on top of betrayals, and Gail Simone still has, I insist, no flair for dialogue- but hey, she did great by good old Beowulf, actually had me giving a shit about Stalker (my interest in 1975 was limited to art only), and she gives Wondy a definite charisma and presence, even if I don't quite understand what her relationship to the reality she inhabits is exactly. And the art was never less than outstanding- the Lopresti/Ryan team handled the action stuff the script demanded very well. Anyway, overall I liked this four-issue arc; any questions I had early on were more or less answered, or at least made unimportant, and it's all good. I liked. Will I buy any more? Probably not. I'm still just not that big a fan of the character. But if you are, I think you should be supporting this book. It's good enough. B+
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RIP JULIUS CARRY, who yes, played "Sho 'Nuff" in the excruciatingly silly 1985 flick Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon...but contrary to what Variety and the other news sources who have reported the death would have you think (since they don't even mention the role or the show) his biggest film/TV geek cachet came in the role of Bruce Campbell's Brisco County, Jr.'s sidekick (just don't ever say that with him around) Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Unsinkable Alan David Doane, inspired by Eddie Campbell's somewhat condescending remark "...anyone who thinks there are more than a few dozen so-called 'graphic novels' worth reading is an idiot.", has responded with a list of what he thinks are 100 graphic novels that are well worth your, mine, and our time. Since that's just begging to get all memed up, well, how can I resist? I shall bold the ones I've read, and add a * to those that I have read in floppy pamphlet format, but not via the actual collected publication. Which leads me to carp that more than a few of these are actually what I consider trade paperbacks, that is to say collections of previously printed works, rather than graphic novels, which I define as original stories written/drawn for and published in that format for the first time. Anyway, what ho!

100 - Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella by Lewis Trondheim (NBM)

099 - Reid Fleming: Rogue to Riches by David Boswell (Deep Sea Comics)

098 - Real Stuff by Dennis Eichhorn et al (Swifty Morales Press)

097 - The Norm in Color by Michael Jantze (

096 - Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Drawn and Quarterly)

095 - Life's a Bitch: The Collected Bitchy Bitch by Roberta Gregory (Fantagraphics)

094 - Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell (Top Shelf)

093 - Curses by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn and Quarterly)

092 - American Splendor: The Best of American Splendor by Harvey Pekar et al (Ballentine)

091 - War Stories by Garth Ennis et al (two volumes) (DC Comics)

090 - A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Abraham Lincoln by Rick Geary (NBM)

089 - Storeyville by Frank Santoro (Picturebox)

088 - All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)*

087 - Spent by Joe Matt (Drawn and Quarterly)

086 - My War with Brian by Ted Rall (NBM)

085 - Mad Night by Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books)

084 - Late Bloomer by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics Books)

083 - The Collected Hutch Owen by Tom Hart (Top Shelf)

082 - God's Bosom and Other Stories by Jack Jackson (Fantagraphics Books)

081 - Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge (Fantagraphics Books)

080 - Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Marvel)*

079 - Ripple by Dave Cooper (Fantagraphics)

078 - Conan: Born on the Battlefield by Kurt Busiek and Greg Ruth (Dark Horse)

077 - City of Glass by Paul Auster, Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli (Harper Perennial)

076 - Bone One Volume Edition by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)

075 - Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon) (I've read a couple of the singles, but never finished this series. I should remedy that.)

074 - Daddy's Girl by By Debbie Drechsler (Fantagraphics Books)

073 - The Gypsy Lounge: Lunchtime Variety Criminals by Jasen Lex (Aweful Books)

072 - Marvel Boy by Grant Morrison and JG Jones (Marvel Comics)*

071 - The Walking Man by Jiro Tanaguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

070 - Waterwise by Joel Orff (Alternative Comics)

069 - Red Eye, Black Eye by K. Thor Jensen (Alternative Comics)

068 - Good-Bye by Yosihiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)

067 - Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)

066 - The Push Man - by Yoshiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)

065 - Shuck Unmasked by Rick Simth and Tania Menesse (Top Shelf)

064 - Paul Has A Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati (Drawn and Quarterly)

063 - Monkey vs. Robot by James Kochalka (Top Shelf)

062 - Hellboy by Mike Mignola (six volumes to date) (Dark Horse)*

061 - Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie (Top Shelf)

060 - McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13 edited by Chris Ware (McSweeney's)

059 - The Legend of Wild Man Fischer by Dennis Eichhorn and J.R. Williams (Top Shelf)

058 - The Fart Party by Julia Wertz (Atomic Books)

057 - Demo by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan (DC/Vertigo)

056 - The Silver Surfer by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Marvel Comics) (I'm assuming this is the 1978 graphic novel, which I wasn't impressed with)

055 - Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby (four volumes) (DC Comics)* (I own the first two Omnibi, plan to get the others soon)

054 - Pizzeria Kamikaze by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka (Alternative Comics)

053 - James Sturm's America by James Sturm (Drawn and Quarterly)

052 - Palestine by Joe Sacco (Fantagraphics Books)

051 - Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge (three volumes to date) (Abiogenesis Press)

050 - The Outer Space Spirit by Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer and Wallace Wood (Kitchen Sink)*
(I read these when Kitchen Sink reprinted them in the 70's magazine)

049 - Top Ten by Alan Moore, Zander Cannon and Gene Ha (two volumes) (America's Best Comics)*

048 - The Placebo Man by Tomer Hanuka

047 - We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC/Vertigo)*

046 - David Boring by Dan Clowes (Pantheon)*

045 - Cages by Dave McKean (NBM)

044 - Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics Books)

043 - Crecy by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres (Avatar Press)

042 - The Maakies by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics Books)

041 - The Book of Leviathan By Peter Blegvad (The Overlook Press)

040 - Fantastic Butterflies by James Kochalka (Alternative Comics)

039 - B. Krigstein Comics by Bernard Krigstein (Fantagraphics Books) (I want this)

038 - Jay's Days: Rise and Fall of the Pasta Shop Lothario by Jason Marcy (Hairy Bald Guy Books)

037 - Gødland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (Image Comics)

036 - Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley (four volumes to date) (Oni Press)

035 - The Filth by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston (DC/Vertigo)

034 - The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (Andrews McMeel)

033 - Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC)*

032 - Marbles in My Underpants by Renee French (Oni Press)

031 - Catwoman Volumes One through Four by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, et al (DC Comics)*

030 - Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo Callejo (NBM)

029 - The Castaways by Rob Vollmar and Pablo Callejo (NBM)

028 - DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke (DC Comics)*

027 - Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm (DC Comics)

026 - The Journal Comic by Drew Weing (Self-published)

025 - 32 Stories by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)

024 - The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)

023 - It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken by Seth (Drawn and Quarterly)

022 - Street Angel by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca (SLG)*

021 - Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (DC Comics)*

020 - Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (Marvel Comics)*

019 - Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (three volumes to date) (Marvel/Icon)*

018 - Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (four volumes) (DC/Wildstorm)*

017 - Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)

016 - The Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics Books) (I have the first two volumes, plus a lifetime of reading the funnies)

015 - King-Cat Classix by John Porcellino (Drawn and Quarterly)

014 - Locas by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)*

013 - The Frank Book by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics Books)

012 - The Ticking by Renée French (Top Shelf)

011 - Bob and Harv's Comics by Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb (4 Walls 8 Windows)

010 - Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)* (By default- I am nowhere near as big a fan of Gilbert as I am Jaime)

009 - Alec: How to be an Artist by Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf)

008 - Hey, Wait... by Jason (Fantagraphics Books)

007 - Ghost World by Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)*

006 - Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (Pantheon)

005 - American Elf: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka (Top Shelf) (I've read a ton of the dailies, and I think I have at least one collection, but I don't think I have this particular one.)

004 - Ice Haven by Dan Clowes (Pantheon)

003 - Louis Riel by Chester Brown (Drawn and Quarterly)

002 - Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner (Frog LTD)

001 - From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf)*

35 out of 100. Not so hot, huh! No wonder Deppey ignores me. Anyway, see how you stack up! I might try to come up with a list of GNs I would have put on the list instead someday, but don't stand on one leg waiting...
It's a VENUS kind of day, it seems...Pappy has posted a particularly manic story of Bill Everett's Olympian Dame with the Fantabulous Frame from the last issue of her title, cover dated April of 1952. Well, actually, it's scanned from a mid-70's issue of Weird Wonder Tales, but you get my drift. He also points us here, to a blog called Hairy Green Eyeball, for two more. You all know I can't get enough of Bill Everett's Venus.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Now, I am obviously not a professional comic book illustrator, nor do I have a good, concrete idea about how to use my Photoshop skills for coloring sequential artwork. That said, I think that if I was either of the above, I'd like to think I'd have enough smarts to pick a font that resembles something used in a motion picture ad campaign, and set that movie title and credits in it, rather than rely on my own less-than-assured-looking handwriting...especially if you were going to 'Shop the hell out of it anyway.

Just sayin'.

From Batman #677. Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea artists; Guy Major, colorist.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


As usual, on Friday evening, Tom Spurgeon put out the call for new Five for Friday submissions, and as usual, I saw the call too late to think of anything to send in. The theme: "Name Five Weapons From Comics You Wouldn't Mind Using In An Emergency, Or Just Otherwise Think Are Cool". However, after seeing the entries of those who did, and thinking a little bit afterwards, I thought of a few several comic-book devices and weapons that no one mentioned, and thought I'd put 'em up here for all to see. Since it's not Friday anymore, I'll cite seven just because. And here they are!

"MIKE" and "IKE", the lightweight pistol and knife that Richard Benson, aka The Avenger, employed in his fight against crime in addition to his disguise abilities. Now, Benson doesn't have quite the renown or cachet of many of his contemporaries like Doc Savage, The Spider or the Shadow, but I read a great many of his paperback exploits as a teen, and enjoyed them each and every one- even the ones which weren't pulp reprints, but modern continuations by Ron Goulart. DC put out two short-lived comics versions, first the above, which lasted five issues and was drawn mostly by Jack Kirby in 1975, and about 12 years later, as Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker sought to spin him off their blackly comedic Shadow in a 2-issue squareback series that didn't seem to go over.

WEATHER WIZARD'S WAND: I started to go with Captain Cold's cold gun, but out of all the Flash's gallery of super-gimmick villains, I've always had the biggest soft spot for the rakish Weather Wizard and his elements-controlling stick. Well, the Infantino version was rakish looking; these days he just looks like a generic supervillain. I never could do anything with my wand but get in trouble.

CAPTAIN ACTION'S MAGIC COINS: When I was a kid, about 8 or so, I was just nuts about my Captain Action doll. I had several of the superhero costumes that you could disguise him in, had the regrettably named Action Boy and Dr. Evil, and all the stuff that came with them. Strangely enough, though, I didn't own very many issues of the DC comic adaptation of the character; maybe it was because out of necessity, they had to change the basic schtick because there was no way Marvel was gonna let DC disguise their hero as Spider-Man or Sarge Fury. What they came up with was having Cap's alter ego Clive Arno be a archaeologist/museum curator, and one of his finds was a clutch of magic coins that gave him SHAZAM-like abilities. Got to believe that would be pretty cool to have. The cover at left was the only issue of Cap that I bought (or actually my folks bought for me) off the spinner rack; I got the others several years later through a mail order back issue dealer.

DR. SPECTRUM'S POWER PRISM: Doc Spectrum was the Green Lantern in Marvel's imitation Justice League, the Squadron Sinister Supreme. Looking at his Wikipedia entry, it seems that the big hunk o'crystal he used to carry around and fire blasts out of is gone, replaced by a kewler-looking glove attachment or something. Bah. Anyway, when I was a kid I was fascinated by prisms, and naturally I gravitated to this character a little bit. Doc's favorite album? Dark Side of the Moon.

DAIMON HELLSTROM'S TRIDENT: Hey- it emits soulfire, which probably is accompanied by Isaac Hayes and James Brown music, and fucks people up seven ways to Sunday. Why wouldn't you want that?

THE MAD THINKER'S BOUNCING BALL OF DOOM!Gotta have the exclamation point, just because. When I was a young boy, I played the silver ball really liked the old Torch and the Thing feature in Strange Tales for some reason, and this was my favorite of all of them, I think. The Thinker set it loose and it just beat the hell out of everything at random, almost destroyed the Brooklyn Bridge and a dam, before the T and T Team finally put it out of commission by using that Saurday Morning cartoon staple, teamwork. It was a fun, action packed story, and I wish I still had a copy of this comic. I know, I know, it's in an Essential collection. I also really liked the Doc Strange feature in this one as well; it's the one in which Doc is on the run from DormamMordo, and does battle with a bunch of wraiths in his astral form outside a jet plane. Cool beans. I think this is something like the fourth time I've posted this cover...

DR. MID-NITE's CYROTUBER: I tried my best to find a picture of this device, which was introduced (and subsequently forgotten about) in Justice League of America #'s 46 and 47. I thought I had found one here, but none of the images loaded. Anyways, it was a gun with a group of tubes at the end, and it fired either lasers or intense cold. Could come in handy if you're driving and need to get frost off your windshield or cool off the engine...or for heating up his soup, even cooling it off if he gets it too hot. I think Gardner Fox thought this would be a good compliment to the Doc's blackout bombs, but that remains dubious.

And that concludes SEVEN FOR SUNDAY! Enjoy the rest of your day, week, month, year, decade, and/or life.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Livewires page for FNF

Once more into the fray as Ladies' Night continues at Bahlactus's place. Tonight, I give you a page from Livewires #1, featuring the aptly named Gothic Lolita. As I recall, this is in the midst of the first issue's extended introductory scene, in which the young bespectacled girl (whose name I forget) is passed around from team member to team member while conveniently giving us, the reader, a helpful infodump about each. The other is called "Social Butterfly", by the way. Written but not drawn by Adam Warren, I recall liking this series a few years ago. Wish t hey could do another. Art is by Rick Mays, Warren imitator par excellence.

Scan ganked from scans_daily, which will be the case for quite some time until I get a new mouse for my indigo iMac and by extension can use my scanner again.

John DiBello posted this recently at Bully Says, and asked people to spread the word. Many other bloggers have done that very thing, and I thought I could at least do my part as well. Click on the first link above for a list of others who have done so and added opinion as well.


Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: "These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, 'cause I wanted to see what her reaction was." This was only one example of several instances of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.

1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.

2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.

3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.

Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it's to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you're dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.

On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining "Convention Policies," which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.

Page three of the book contains a "Where Is It?" guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There's no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she's sympathetic to the situation but who doesn't have a clear answer to my question: "What's Comic-Con's policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?" She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there's little that can be done.

"I understand that," I tell them both, "but what I'm asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what's the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?" But this wasn't a question either could answer.

So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like "Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX."

The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more rep-tape loophole to hide behind.

I enjoyed Comic-Con. I'm looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I've retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn't have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.

I don't understand why there's no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.


Needless to say, there should be a system in place- it's too much, apparently, to expect people not to sometimes behave badly, especially when you're dealing with such a large group.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future...for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you- in the future!

Yep, time now to gaze into the fog-enshrouded crystal ball, and see what I'm supposed to be getting (with any luck) this Friday from DCBS. Ah! It is revealed!

JACK STAFF #18: I hope Grist is in the process of winding things up with the current storylines, which have been going on (it seems) like 1996...


FINAL CRISIS #3: Everybody wants to treat each of these chapters like they were fully-formed books, and I still think wait-and-see is the best approach. But hey- I did the same thing for The Filth.


PATSY WALKER, HELLCAT #2 (OF 5): What if they made Northern Exposure with superheroes?



HELLBOY: THE CROOKED MAN #2: Really looking forward to this after the excellent #1. Hope I'm not disappointed.

100 BULLETS #94: Tough guys and gals will talk tough, and people will probably die. And so it goes.

And that's it! For once, I don't have a bunch of other non-DCBS stuff that has come in in the interval. C'mon, publishers, get on the ball!

Monday, August 11, 2008


Time once more for Confessions of a Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write shortish reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately July 24th to August 6, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #1: Bob Fleming and Keith Giffen pick up right where they left off sixteen years ago (My God- has it really been that long since the Nothing Special?), giving us nonstop DCU-based absurdity, a welcome tonic for all the gloomy, oh-so-serious comics DC's been issuing for the last five years or so. Problem is, at least on the internet, there have been many talented (and many not-so-talented) people who have been poking fun at Silver Age DC for several years now as well, mining that rich lode for all it's worth- and the Bug's anarchy isn't quite as anarchistic anymore. But that doesn't mean that there aren't many laughs and chuckles to be found here, so by all means check this out, especially if you like fun. And who doesn't like fun? Well, lots of people evidently...but I know you're not one of them. B+

BLACK DIAMOND: GET IN THE CAR AND GO! TP: Having read the entire series now in one sitting, the objections I had when I read most of the singles still apply. Although I still am skeptical about presuming that U.S. citizens would be amenable to the possibility of a thousand pounds of automobile dropping on their heads or property with no advance notice, the basic idea of the superhighway high over our heads, the people who use it and the people who live on it and depend on it for a living as well as the political jockeying going on in regards to it is an intriguing one, and that Larry is able to make it so is a testament to his writing chops. On top of that, I don't think he's even begun to tap the potential of this concept- there's a million stories that can be told involving that stretch of road, I'll betcha, and this story's quest is only one of them. The back features, unfortunately not included in this trade, bore that out. But calling it a "quest" is a bit highfalutin'- this story, with its QT-esque dialogue and non-stop muscle car action, is strictly 1973 drive-in fare all the way- a spiritual cousin of such double feature diamonds as Two Lane Blacktop, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and yes, even Death Race 2000 or maybe, just maybe, a hint of Mad Max. To carry the film comparisons further, as I said when I wrote about the final issue, I enjoyed how Young breaks down the wall between story and storyteller, superimposing the actual script and directions over the images; it's unorthodox but I thought it worked nicely and reminded me a lot of movies such as Dennis Hopper's weird-assed The Last Movie, or even the ending of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. I sometimes think Young was born too late, actually- in another life I believe he would have been destined to pitch scripts to Roger Corman. Biggest problem I have with this, though, is simply Jon Proctor's art. I wish I could be kinder to it, but it just too often looks crude and unappealing, although he does exhibit strong graphic design skills- there are several well-done collage style spreads. Time and again he resorts to what appears to be tracing photographs or photocopies with a Sharpie, and the effect took me right out of the story too many times to count. The coloring is garish and ugly, too- perhaps to evoke some sort of dystopian future in which the ozone layer is fubared or somesuch, but the oversaturated reds, oranges, yellows and greens just make it look like sunset all the time- and the effect is monotony. This may not be such a problem for many of you out there; visuals have always been, in most cases, as important to me as story- but I know not everyone shares my viewpoint. If you're looking for a good, diverting read, say to kill an afternoon or take along on a flight somewhere, then I strongly recommend you check this out. It's not perfect, but neither were the great drive-in pictures of the 50's and 60' Black Diamond, what they were, above all, was entertaining. B+

BLUE BEETLE #29: New writer Matt Sturges takes over and semi-regular artist Rafael Albuquerque returns, and they blend together pretty well as we get deeper into the whole illegal alien mystery that's going on both here and in Manhunter as well. Don't know how related they are, exactly, even though Jaime made an appearance in her book. Lots of Peacemaker this time out, as well as a goofy-looking fight between a tattooed luchadore and a giant rat-guy, some action involving illegals hopped up on some sort of super-serum, some corporate skullduggery, and overall this is a not-bad little superhero comic- action packed and leavened with judiciously placed humor. No wonder it's not selling- not enough brooding, I'm sure. A-

CATWOMAN #81: More of the same outstanding superheroics that Pfiefer and the Lopezes have been providing for many months now. But as we all know, this is a dead comic walking, so it has been all for naught, apparently. Makes you wonder what readers want from a Catwoman book; since this one spends a goodly amount of pages reestablishing her villainous cred, I have a sinking feeling we're about to find out soon. B+

DAREDEVIL #109: OK, I give- I'll buy a Dakota North solo book, if it's handled as well as Brubaker, Lark and Gaudiano handle her here. She's the featured star of this particular storyline, a bit too similar to recent arcs but no less well-done. Don't really understand what was up with all the automatic weapons on the cover. B+

DIANA PRINCE: WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 2: This time out we get not only more of Denny O'Neil and Mike Sekowsky's Emma Peel/James Bond/Girl From U.N.C.L.E.-styled spin on the erstwhile Amazon Princess, but also a couple of examples of how hard the decision-makers tried to make her stick- there's a crossover appearance reprinted here from Lois Lane #93, written by Bob Kanigher and drawn by late 60's-early/mid 70's stalwart Irv Novick, that seems to pit Diana against Lois for Superman's affections; typical goofy Kanigher stuff. The other is the notoriously silly racing-themed Batman team-up in Brave and the Bold #87, nicely drawn by Sekowsky for the most part but a lot depends on how long you can take Bats in a little racing helmet, driving a LeMans and fighting stereotypical German bad guys. Otherwise, everything else is from the Wonder Woman comic proper and it's a mixed bag- by now, Sekowsky is writing and drawing, and while his dialogue style is mostly terse and to the point, it suffers from (what I hope is unintentional) sexism- even though much is made of this new, liberated Wonder Woman, she still is awfully dependent on a rotating cast of rough, tough he-man types to help her out of jams and scrapes- the ones that her blind Asian mentor I-Ching doesn't get her out of, that is. For a character whose name is on the masthead, Diana actually does precious little to make a difference in many of these stories other than get in fights and defer to others to resolve the situations at hand. Not exactly inspiring. Which is not to say that there isn't entertainment value, if you're not expecting much- this collection leads off with the jaw-dropping "Them", which works in a flamboyant trio of lesbians, who keep young girls in bondage as slaves until one escapes and hides in Diana's boutique and by extension gets her to help. She stands up to the trio, but it's a man that bails her out. Sigh. It sounds very kinky, but it's PG-rated kink. Much better is "Morgana", in which a group of kids accidentally conjures up the daughter of Morgan Le Fay, who wreaks supernatural mischief until...I Ching bails Diana out. That's dismaying, but the magical hijinx are fun. The malevolent superspy villainess Dr. Cyber, who played a big part early in the run, comes back for an U.N.C.L.E-flavored storyline involving earthquake machines and a girl that claims to be Ching's daughter, culminating with Diana going undercover in Red China with her boyfriend du jour, tracking Ching's whereabouts and eventually helping some refugees escape forced labor in the land of godless communism. This is some dicey stuff- by today's standards at least borderline racist and sexist in places and quite dated in others, but also very much of its time and certainly in line with the prevailing mindset of the day. If you can overlook this, these are some fast paced and action-packed super spy-espionage stories, and if you're disposed to like Sekowsky's idiosyncratic style (as I am) he's in very good form. That's a big if, I know. B-

LIBERTY COMICS: A CBLDF BENEFIT BOOK: At first I was so offput by the heavy handedness of practically everything in this collection that I was ready to pan it mercilessly, but after some thought I understood that in order to get a mule's attention, you don't tap him on the shoulder or tickle him with a feather- you whack him on the head or on the ass with a two-by-four- and that seems to be the prevailing aesthetic here. A lot like reading Frank Miller comics, actually. Nice to see Monkeyman and O'Brien again, even if it was just a satirical two-page spread. Also standing out are a Kurtzman Mad-style Darwyn Cooke feature, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's cutesy-in-a-revolting-kind-of-way intro starring the Boys, and two stories which don't seem to have much to do with the subject at hand: Mark Millar and J.P. Leon's melancholy story of an aged Dracula, trying to life a non-vampiric life in a dingy London flat, and a typically handsome-looking Brubaker/Phillips Criminal tale, puzzlingly referred to as an "emission". Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones also get an ongoing framing story which runs throughout the book; they have such great chemistry together that it's enjoyable even though it's predictable. As an art showcase, this is pretty good, and it's for a good cause as well. Wonder if I can deduct it from my taxes? B+

MADAME XANADU #2: Now this is more like it. Well-done dramatics from Wagner, working the epic Arthurian story from a pagan viewpoint as well as toeing the DC continuity line, and Amy Hadley contributing some really lovely visuals in said story's service. I now look forward to finding out where Wagner's going. My only objection, really, was Hadley's decision to depict Merlin as an ancestor of Betty Boop's Grampy. A-

NOCTURNALS: CARNIVAL OF BEASTS: It's been a hell of a long time since a new issue of Dan Brereton's Nocturnals has graced my stack, and unlike many prodigal titles, this one is better than ever thanks not only to Brereton's always excellent work itself, but outstanding contributions from two other well-chosen creators. The lead story, which is all Brereton, is a continuation of previous storylines, but this time he gives the tale an mean edge which hasn't been quite so evident in issues past, and it works very well in what, at least on the surface, is a simple account of Doc Horror trying to escort his daughter Evening to school, while struggling to contain the transformative changes that are an ongoing battle he must wage, as well as encountering some old "friends" with murderous (and worse) intent. Somewhat intriguing is the suggestion of a Harry Potter-ish supernatural school; if Brereton ever gets around to expanding his universe a la Mignola and the B.P.R.D., this could provide some interesting storylines. The other two tales deal with other members of the group- first, fish-girl Starfish, who encounters an undersea leviathan in a haunting and evocative story, wonderfully drawn and digitally colored (with a nicely restrained use of greens, blues and purples) by Viktor Kalvachev, previously unknown to me, and a lighter-in-tone, wordless story of Eve, the undead Gunwitch, and ghost-girl Polychrome (if you see her, the nickname makes perfect sense) getting involved with a Something Wicked This Way Comes-style circus, drawn in a lively, cartoonish style by Ruben Martinez and Viet Nguyen (what is it with so many talented creators named Nguyen, anyway?)- it doesn't make quite the impression that its predecessors do- it's just a tad hard to follow in spots- but is fast-paced and fun just the same. I want more from Brereton and whatever collaborators he deems necessary, and I hope I don't have to wait 14 more years to get it. A+

NORTHLANDERS #8: Well, that was an ending, wasn't it? Yep, yep, sure was. An ending. That's what it was. It sure did end all right! Lots of angst, and bloodshed, and stürm und its cousin drang...and then, well, it stopped, and our haunted, conflicted Sven finds out what's really important in life, as anyone who's ever watched a movie or TV show will tell you. Anticlimactic as it was, I can't help but be reminded of a certain professional writer who has also recently found himself as a father, and can't help but wonder if he didn't write this story with, just perhaps, a more personal touch than usual. Well, idle speculation aside, even though this has been a solid historical adventure yarn, I'm not sure it would be as good it was if not for the art of David Gianfelice; I'd say he has established himself as an artist to watch out for, if he hasn't already. I, for one, would like to introduce him to the editors of Dark Horse's awful-looking Solomon Kane adaptation. B+

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #8: Oh, so this was just the springboard for yet another Wildstorm linewide relaunch, another imitation Crisis on Infinite WhatEVER that absolutely no one is asking for but DC feels compelled to do anyway. Why do they bother? Anyway, this is where the Chris Sprouse/Karl Kesel art ends, (they didn't even do all of this final issue, instead leaving chapters to lesser talents) and where I get off. C