Sunday, September 28, 2008

When I read Tom Spurgeon's list of "The 50 Things That Every Comics Collection Truly Needs" yesterday morning, I thought it would be ideal for memery, and sure enough, several folks have done that very thing already. So what the hell, here's mine:

Leave Plain = Things I don't have
Make Bold = Things I do have
Italics = I have some but probably not enough

Underline = I'll take your word for it, Tom.

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library (actually, I have one issue. I kept thinking I'd buy more, but the cost and the scarcity of the back issues to that date kept me from doing so. I do admire Ware's work from a distance, which is just the way he likes it, I'm sure)

2. A Complete Run Of Arcade

3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics
(I have a handful; a couple that I did myself even!)

4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s

5. A Barnaby Collection (I used to read Barnaby as a child, mostly via the auspices of the Scholastic Book Club. They were wonderful, but strangely I have no real desire to revisit them.)

6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary (I've read excerpts, but have never owned this)

7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On

8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics (My wife bought the digests regularly back in the 80's; and I'd buy the occasional Archie comic when I was a kid, so I think that counts)

9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels (Don't know if I'd call it a "suite" exactly, but I do have Blankets, Ghost World (serialized in Eightball) and I'm sure others that qualify.)

10. Several Tintin Albums (I don't own any collections, but I faithfully read his adventures in Children's Digest as a child)

11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books (I have a smattering- Superman vs Muhammad Ali, a Conan with an adaptation of "Red Nails" by Barry Smith, a couple of others that elude me right now)

12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series

13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste (I wish I had several of these, but my spending on these things is limited. I'd be all over the Little Nemo, Popeye, Dick Tracy, Krazy Kat and maybe even Gasoline Alley if this were not the case)

14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday

15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books

16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To (God bless Tom for citing Thriller here)

17. Some Osamu Tezuka

18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series

19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections (I have read this strip faithfully for years in the newspaper; surely that counts for something)

20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover
(A subject for further research)

21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped (I know I've done this before, with political cartoons, but I don't know what happened to them)

22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else (Remember Scarlett from the other day?)

23. At Least One Woodcut Novel (Woodcuts are often beautiful, but this is the first time in my experience that the words "woodcut" and "novel" have been placed together in any sort of context)

24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand (I have the first two Fantagraphics collections, and I still hope to get some more someday. Plus, I've been reading the dailies for 40 years; that oughtta count)

25. Maus

26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks (Love to have some)

27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.

28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics (Love to have it)

29. Several copies of MAD (I don't have many of the ones I owned as a kid anymore, but I still do have a couple)

30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books (I used to have more, but I sold a lot of 'em, a story I've told ad nauseum. Kept my Demons, and I do have the first couple of Omnibi. Omnibuses. Whatever.)

31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books (Again, not as many as I useta have, but I do have at least a few.)

32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix (I kept my Freak Bros., but let go of my Zaps and Checkered Demons. I miss them.)

33. Some Calvin and Hobbes (I have a couple of the collections, plus I never missed it in the paper)

34. Some Love and Rockets

35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber (I did like that cover, FWIW)

36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue (Do Chris Claremont-scripted X-books count?)

37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics (I have a few lying around; for a while there I made it a point to pick them up and keep them when I'd spy one lying on a counter or in a store or such. After a while, I got tired of having the stupid, hateful things around, though.)

38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid (I have several; I try to hand some down to my grandson once in a while, esp. comps)

39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics

40. A Comic You Made Yourself (Here's one, and here's another)

41. A Few Comics About Comics

42. A Run Of Yummy Fur

43. Some Frank Miller Comics (Not as many as I useta have, tho; I wish I still had my Daredevil run, and others, mostly pre-Ronin)

44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books

45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories (Especially if the stories contained in various Warren magazines count, like Goodwin and Adams' "Thrill Kill")

46. A Tijuana Bible (I've had one or two pass through my hands in times past, but alas, I own none at present)

47. Some Weirdo

48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres (Don't know if I'd call it an array, but I have some)

49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two (LOVE to have an Oliphant collection, or Toles)

50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists (Love to have; I always get a chuckle from New Yorker cartoons)

Aaaand that's it! Tom added:

And Now You Can Play: What suggestion would you add to the list? For every suggestion you add, tell me which requirement you'd take off the list, so that the number stays at 50. Answers added to the bottom of this posting as they come in.

Which would require a lot more thought than I'm able to give it right now. Maybe in a separate post someday...

Friday, September 26, 2008



Tonight's Femme Fracas is a good one, I think, featuring the supa dupa fly MISTY KNIGHT and her Daughters of the Dragon cohort Colleen Wing in the climactic tussle with the detestable Riccadonna from their hugely entertaining miniseries of the same name, which came out in 2006. It led, of course, to the less-entertaining and now cancelled Heroes For Hire ongoing, which utterly failed to capture the funky feel of its predecessor. Oh well, water under the bridge. As always, click to embiggen the pics.

Script by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, art by Khari Evans and Palmiotti.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I meant to hold forth about that whole Minx thing earlier today, but work and other stuff got the best of me and by the time I had a chance, many other more astute comics bloggers had already had their say. I did post a tweet about it late on Wednesday night, let the record show.

I'll try later to link to as many as I can think of.

When they first announced the plans for a line of graphic novels aimed at the tweenage girls demographic, I thought it would be a good idea- it's definitely a segment of the potential comics-reading public that hasn't been catered to by anyone except manga publishers. I thought it would be at least an interesting experiment and at best a savvy move to get DC product on the shelves in the bookstores that are such a desirable market. Then, they announced the name, which just sounded all kinds of wrong the more I thought about it. The creator lineup announced later didn't thrill me much either; it was full of safe choices and familiar-to-the-DC-offices creators, and while I admire the work of Andi Watson, Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel very much, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the kind of people that should be tapped to write and/or draw stories aimed at the target group, especially when there were many other deserving creators that had been doing work in this vein already such as Lea Hernandez, Becky Cloonan, Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson, Vera Brosgol, Lucy Knisely, Jen Wang, and many more.

While I did follow the story, as a forty-something male I was nowhere near the target audience so I didn't really plan on buying any; however, DC comped me on the first two: The Plain Janes and Re-Gifters. Click on the links for my reviews. While I thought they were both interesting stories (especially the latter), I had my doubts about whether they were really all that attractive to the kids they were shooting for, even though I will freely admit that I don't have a clue exactly what teenage girls want to read- my own daughter is now well past her teens, and didn 't like to read anyway. Couldn't get her interested to save my life. Anyways, a while later, I was sent a copy of Ross Campbell's Water Baby, which I didn't care for at all. I really had begun by then to wonder what the thought processes were behind some of the projects I'd seen so far and were upcoming. It just seemed that the only thing the decision makers could think to do was greenlight more books about young girls for young girls, real Afterschool Special kinds of things. While Emiko Superstar and The New York Four, (neither of which I've read) certainly looked good, with Steve Rolston art on the first and the Local team of Ryan Kelly and Brian Wood on the other, both still seemed like just more of the same-old.

Not being privy to the decision making process, and only knowing what I've read from many of the people involved as well as those far more in the know than I could ever be living hundreds of miles away from NYCNY, all I can do is make conclusions based on assumption and idle speculation. Still, as LJ-user kadymae (whose real name eludes me right now, and I'm really sorry) says:

Hot tip: Teenaged girls with crappy lives don't want to read books about other teenaged girls with crappy lives who go to school where everybody else shits on them too and there's nothing they can do about it. They want to escape from their crappy lives for a few hours into a world where they are important and have power and do meaningful things and have adventures. (Oh, and a little m/m ho-yay never hurts.)

I don't (and neither does anyone else, except the people who made the decision) have a definitive answer why; bottom line is that it didn't perform up to expectations, and neither DC or its parent Time Warner is an altruistic corporation. That said, I think it's unfortunate that it had to get axed so abruptly, and there wasn't any sort of effort made to perhaps step back and analyze why it wasn't working, and go forward with changes. One year just doesn't seem like long enough for a line to find its audience, even in today's uncertain economic climate. Anyway, imprints will come and imprints will go, and life will go on. I really hope those left at sea because of this will soon find something to pick up the slack, and I hope that any unreleased projects will find an outlet somewhere somehow. And by all that is holy I hope that this doesn't give people, especially those in positions to have opinions that actually matter, the idea that teenage girls won't read comics. I don't think anything could be further from the truth.

Other links to the story:

Tom Spurgeon

Heidi MacDonald part one part two

Kevin Church

Becky Cloonan

Brian Wood

"Maxo" of Great Ceasar's Post

Valerie D'Orazio

Lea Hernandez


Steve Rolston

And on many of those links you'll find links to others' reactions to this event.

Sending out BSBdG's to PAUL POPE.

I had seen Pope's work here and there before I latched on to the superlative 100%, mostly in anthologies. I was not aware of his THB books, or even (at first) of 100%'s predecessor Heavy Liquid. Once I got the bug, though, I made it a point to pick up pretty much everything he's done since-Liquid, Batman Year 100, his issue of Solo. He is one of the few absolute genius stylists to come along in the last ten years, and whatever he turns his attention to is always worthwhile. He can also heal the sick and cause lame beggars to walk. Aw, I'm kidding about that last part.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Assuming DCBS and DHL don't screw things up, that is. DHL delivered my Friday box on Tuesday last time, grumble, grumble. Anyway, here's whutz s'posed to be innit:

HELLBLAZER #247: After a brief intermission, Diggle and Manco return and pick up where they left off. Only to bail again really soon. Feh. Let's get Jason Aaron up in this joint. Yo.

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #12: I hope I have a headache or something when I get this; I want to place it against my temples to see if it makes it go away. Then I'll put it on my thinning hair. It's that good, or so I hear. That's the problem with getting my new comics bi-weekly; everybody else and their grandmother has opined by now. However, I have not been so ready to anoint A-SS the best Superman series EVAR, so we will see about that.

: From the solicit, it sounds like Deena's finally gonna get what's coming to her. By 2011, we should find out what that is.

: Dang, that was quick! I just got #75 in my last shipment!

: Special guest star this issue: Ambush Bug!

Brubaker: "Warren, I need to come up with a villain for my new Daredevil story arc, but his rogues gallery is so lame, and I'm too busy and it's too hard to make stiffs like the Matador cool. Gee, I wish I could just use the Kingpin and Bullseye and Elektra forever and ever, just like Bendis did! WAIT! I've got it! LADY BULLSEYE! And I'll make her just 'all-new, all-different' enough to make her not seem like a blatant rip-off! BRILLIANT!" Warren Simons: "Yeah, sure, whatever. You da man. you ED BRUBAKER! Whatever you say goes. Hey- make sure the artist gives her a improbable-looking skintight reject costume straight from the Count Vertigo collection, too!" Warren and Ed: "SOLD!"

: #1 was amazing, #2 was less so- will Miggy and Corben be able to deliver the goods and wind this puppy up right?

AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #3: Part 2 of the senses-shattering Dash Bad Horse/Irwin Schwab team-up, as they battle Mongul for the fate of the UNIVERSE! Dash will then be given a power ring and will take his place as part of the Green Lantern Corps, and will then join the Outsiders as well.

Tiny Titans #8 spoiled the big revelation about the identity of Jaime Reyes' parents.

I defy you to read this and not hear that ONJ/ELO movie song in your head. Especially now.

I kept seeing where the latest MEAT CAKE, #17, was supposed to be out this week as well, but that's a dirty lie.

Some other releases of note, that WON'T be in my box:

SOLOMON KANE #1: In which the scripter thinks he's writing Solomon Kane, Robert E. Howard's obscure but fascinating Puritan adventurer, but the artist(s) hears only "Robert E. Howard" and thinks they're drawing Conan.

MY NAME IS BRUCE ONE SHOT: On the one hand, this is BRUCE CAMPBELL. On the other hand, by definition this sort of thing is usually lackluster and uninspired. If you want to find out, go ahead and let me know, whydoncha?

ABSOLUTE RONIN HC: One hundred bucks? Even at a discount, that's way too much for what I thought was an ambitious failure. Still, if you're just a stone Frank Miller freak with too much money and a burning need to spend it, well, here's as good a way as any.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS METAL MEN TP VOL 02: This is sheer concentrated weapons-grade bizarro comics as only Bob (Bugfuck crazy) Kanigher could conceive, unfettered by the relative restraint (stop laughing. Well, OK, laugh) of the first 16 issues as well as the Brave and the Bold and Showcase issues. And once more, it's very well drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito- I'm of the opinion that it was here that they did their best work together. This one has the immortal "Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot", Robot Amazons, as well as the first and probably only apeparance of the Sizzler, who started a chain of steakhouses after her comics career ended. Geez, I had a lot of these comics as a kid. Anyway, towards the end of this collection you'll also see some Gil Kane and Mike Sekowsky art, plus a turn towards a more serious direction as the Metal Men become wanted for murder, thus presaging the whole "grim and gritty" movement by a good 25 years! Hell, I've almost talked myself into buying this one.

RED ROCKET 7 TP: I enjoyed this sprawling, oversize Mike Allred epic when it came out back in 1997; I was still a fan back then via Madman, and he and I both had an affection for 70's Glam bands. Basically Ziggy Stardust meets Zelig, I concluded that its reach was more ambitious than its grasp, but was full of great ideas and scenes, plus how many comics have cameos by Mott the Hoople, the Kinks, and Marc Bolan/T.Rex? Not many, that's how many. The cover I'm seeing is kinda lame, though, especially when compared to the clever covers many of the singles sported...

MMW ATLAS ERA HEROES HC VOL 03: Some more sweet-ass-sweet Bill Everett Sub-Mariner stuff. If I could afford these, bet your ass I'd be buying.

WASTELAND #20 I'm buying the trades for this, so I'm wondering when the third one's coming out. Seems like ages since the second one was released!

OK, that's all I got. As always, I'll be opining upon the ones I get, as well as the latest GN from AiT/PlanetLar, Dugout, and, again, WORLD OF WARCRAFT: ASHBRINGER (he BRINGS THE ASH!) #1, AIR #2 and TINY TITANS #8 among others.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The mighty Tom Spurgeon put up another enjoyable Five for Friday last Friday evening, and I was able to form enough coherent thoughts together to participate. The topic was "Name Five Comics You Like Where -- Clearly, So That A Fifth Grader Could See It -- The Lead Character Is Female. And Name the Comic, Not The Character!"

Problem is, as so often is the case, when Sunday morning rolled around and everyone's responses were posted, I was gobsmacked (as our English friends like to say, or so Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, etc. likes to tell us) at the female lead characters that I have loved in the past but I just didn't think of. One of the most egregious omissions I made was BAMBI, of AND HER PINK GUN and REPRINT COLLECTIONS SADLY AND STUPIDLY CANCELLED fame, so I thought I should at least make mention of it here as penance. Boy, I wish I could read the other chapters in the story- I know that these are serialized in some sort of manga publication over in Nippon...but I don't really have access to them, plus I'm not sure if they would be translated, etc. I'm sure those of you who are wise to the ways of manga could enlighten me.

Others which I have been a fan of in the past, but forgot because, well, the FFF solicit gets posted (or at least it's when I see it on my Google Reader) on Friday evening and I only get about maybe three hours to think about it (the gears of my mind are rusty, y'see) before the deadline, are Chance Falconer of Leave it to Chance; Halo Jones; Why I Hate Saturn; Dame Darcy's Meat Cake, featuring her Strega Pez, Girl the Friend, Perfidia and Hindrance (great names there for the Siamese twin sisters), Effluvia the Mermaid, and Richard Dirt characters; Alison Dare, and how could I forget Brubaker, Cooke, Pfiefer, Woods, and the Lopezes' Catwoman? And Black Orchid, even though I liked her before Gaiman got his hands on her? My omission of Evil Eye's Peculia makes me smack my forehead, too. DC's post-film, pre-TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer knockoff Scarlett was kind of a guilty pleasure of mine back in the day, as well. Jingle Belle, f'r gosh sakes, as well as Mutant, Texas: The Adventures of Sheriff Ida Red was one which occurred to me but I forgot it before I sent the email. I also considered Love and Rockets, as many respondents did, but Maggie and Hopey and Penny Century and Luba and so many of the other great feminine characters in that book are just part of a big cast in those books so I didn't name that particular title.

Oh well, hindsight is 20/20. I'm not not proud of the ones I did cite, so it's all good I guess. Big Bambi panel taken from here.

Sunday, September 21, 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 September 4 through September 17, 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 #95
: I must say that the death of a cast member, done in only slightly smirky fashion here as sort of an ironic punch line to a joke that really didn't have much of a setup, was pretty surprising. And, as I said, we will have to wait at least another month to witness the outcome of #94's Lono-Dizzy fracas. Otherwise, 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 5 issues. A-

THE BOYS #22 - Pretty much status quo this time out, with very little in the way of new developments in the ongoing storyline (unless you count Butcher's little epiphany at the end) and a lot more of the infodumping we've been getting for a couple of chapters now. I'm not sure how much of this is essential knowledge, but I'm happy to have it out there to refer to just the same. Jog had a (typically) good review of this issue up earlier this week, and it inspired a pretty interesting comments section, so I'll refer you to that for now. B+

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #3 - Did I miss an issue? The first two installments have been mostly about Liz Sherman and the annoying fellow in the Fu Manchu robes that has been haunting her dreams, and the B.P.R.D.'s pursuit of same- then suddenly we're in Germany, and the frog creatures are back, and the whole tone of the book abruptly changes. Which is fine as far as it goes; John Arcudi has made the Bureau his own, moved in and made himself at home, and I'm sure stuff will get tied together eventually. And of course, Guy Davis' art is always brilliant. A-

CRIMINAL 2 #5 - Our hapless cartoonist protagonist keeps messing his own bed, or digging his own grave, or whatever you want to call it. He's such a unassuming fellow that you can't help but root for him, but unfortunately that involves a lot of wincing as he keeps on making bad decisions- the ones that don't get made for him that is. Not much else to say about this comic at this point; it's wonderfully illustrated by Sean Phillips, one of today's best comics illustrators I insist, and while I still have a tiny personal reservation about this title- more to do with my aversion, or perhaps reluctance to completely embrace, the Noir genre as a whole (be it film or prose or comics) due to its relentless mundanity and monotony of subject matter- this is as good as sequential storytelling gets, and you can take that to the bank. Also kudos to Marc Andreyko for a really nice text piece on a flick I've never seen, but now want to. A

FABLES #75 - Big, double size grande finale to the whole Adversary War thing; at first I thought it seemed rushed and pat, but then I realized that this was issue #75, fergoshsakes, and it was probably something which needed doing so Willingham and Co. could move on. I had also been bothered a bit by the ease which the outcast Fables were experiencing as they won battle after battle and seemed to outmaneuver the Adversary's forces at every turn...but I also knew that this was the kind of reaction Willingham was expecting, and dreaded the other shoe dropping, which it did here. Of course, given the transitory nature of life and death in this series, I wouldn't be surprised if the unfortunate war hero here doesn't pop up again at some point. Anyway, even though I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the final solution we get here, and still think the whole thing could have been a bit less efficient and a bit more dramatic, it was overall an entertaining tale and, loyal Fables kool-aid drinker that I am, look forward to what happens next. A-


I've never been overly fond of comic-book versions of popular (and not-so-popular) television shows and films; by their very nature they usually disappoint. This is no exception. I'm not completely sold on the series either; its characters are unconvincing, its lead uncharismatic, and its storylines play too fast and loose with not only the laws of nature and physics, but the audience as well, seeming to make its own rules up as it goes along. It plays like a Cliff's Notes version of better shows of the last ten years or so, from (of course) X-Files to obscurities like John Doe. This comics adaptation is intended to be an expansion of characters and ideas that come from the show, as is de rigueur for this sort of thing. The lead tale is an account of the eccentric scientist Walter Bishop, one of the trio of main characters, in his younger days at Harvard. It's drawn by Tom Mandrake, so it at least has that much going for it, and I suppose if you're caught up in the TV storyline you'll find it interesting. The second story is about a people who are suddenly waking up to find their consciousness in another body, which is an extrapolation of another theme of the TV show. It's illustrated by a couple of guys I've never heard of, but whose main inspiration seems to be Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary's work. It's a passable story. These are not bad comics, necessarily, but they're second-hand and derivative by nature, and when you consider that the TV series they're based on is the same, than that makes this product third-hand. I suppose there's a demand for this sort of thing; Dark Horse seems to do well with its Buffy and Star Wars spinoffs, and WildStorm continues to publish an X-Files comic in addition to this. For what it's supposed to be, Fringe the comic succeeds. C

: It's been a while since I've read an issue of Hex; I was enjoying it at first, especially when Graymiotti teamed with a really good illustrator like Jordi Bernet- but there was a formulaic nature to almost every story I read and I got bored with it eventually. However, the artist-go-round continues, and while I could make myself pass on the Darwyn Cooke-drawn issue of a month or two ago, when I saw J.H. Williams III was doing the honors this time out I couldn't say no. He's one of my absolute favorite artists- his imaginative style with its designerly chops is always brilliant. However, (and I really hate to bring this up) but after I read this the infamous "lipstick on a pig" quip came to mind- it's wonderfully drawn and colored, and Williams is at the top of his game as usual, but the story which Graymiotti concocted for him is yet another example of Hex running afoul of some sort of authority figure that of course double-crosses him and makes him go through some sort of difficulty before re-establishing his alpha male priority and getting his due. Of course, the whole slipping-him-the-mickey so the Sheriff's wife can try and conceive a child since the Sheriff is sterile thing is a fresh wrinkle...but the basic construction of the story is one that I got bored with abour 26 issues ago. So, an art-lover's delight, but unsatisfying in pretty much every other way. B-

LOVE & ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #1 - In which Los Bros. inaugurate their new, bigger, and of course more expensive format in grand fashion. Jaime opens and closes the volume with an absolutely delightful, unselfconscious superhero fantasy that starts in ordinary fashion, with Maggie and her galpal Angel gossiping about one of Mag's tenants, then escalates into an all-out cosmic superhero battle as various groups of female superheroes seek to subdue Penny Century, who finally got the superpowers she wanted, but had to pay an awful price and has gone on a destructive rampage. This, one of the best pure superhero stories I think I've ever read, succeeds not only because of Jaime's usual strengths- i.e. his outstanding art with its confident ink line, excellent staging, dead-on blackspotting, and his matchless ability to capture the female form, but because it's almost the polar opposite of most superhero comics stories these days. In this story, pretty much anything can happen, and it's limited only by Jaime's imagination, and that gives it a freewheeling, giddy drive that I got caught right up in. Most comics writers these days seem motivated in large part by the desire not to write something fanciful or fun, something which can be perceived as childish or uncool by the bullies that they may or may not have been faced with as they grew up; many seem to be afraid someone will perceive them as a "nerd". Not Jaime; not that anyone would do that anyway...but this is, as I said, totally un-selfconscious and a hugely entertaining romp with characters that weren't always conceived to be used in this fashion- and it's all right. Of course, as I've so often stated, I'm not such a big fan of Gilbert and Mario's stuff, but they acquit themselves well; Gilbert provides a few of the usual headscratching short strips, as well as a couple of longer stories, one of which is meant (I'm sure) to be some sort of existential musing on persistence or inevitability or something which eluded me completely, as well as another look at his Julio character...but his highlight (for me) was a fanciful, surreal outer-space adventure in which he exhumes early 50's comedy team Mitchell and Petrillo, who were sort of a poor man's Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis back in the day, even starring in the immortal grade-z quickie Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. I don't think Beto's trying to enlighten here, he's just looking to have fun and it comes across. Mario also collaborates with Gilbert on another surreal tale which revisits older characters to no great effect, really- it struck me as rather pointless, but inoffensive. The cover package design for this new series is outstanding as well; love the font choices as well as the matte paper. For me, the Jaime story (it's continued in the next issue!) and the Beto Mitchell and Petrillo tale, plus the good-looking design, make it well worth the money. Fantagraphics' website unabashedly hypes this as "...a major graphic-novel event!", and for once I can't really argue. A

MANHUNTER #34: Kate continues to try and get to the bottom of the whole sordid goings-on at the secret facility on the Mexican border, while other subplots, such as the one with her son and his newfound abilities, and Dylan Battles' stalker, kinda float in and out of the narrative as well. Add to that lots of guest stars, (thankfully, Chase is AWOL, but I'm afraid we're going to see her again soon) and you get a bit of a mishmash that seems to be spinning its wheels to no good effect, I'm afraid. Still, there are pluses; for the first time since the relaunch, we get a sense of the Kate Spencer we got in the first two series runs, and I liked her somewhat surprising interaction with not only her erstwhile teammates in the Birds of Prey but her struggle with the Suicide Squad members also on the scene. I think Andreyko did a good job with Count Vertigo in particular. I also think this issue was the first one in which artist Mike Gaydos seemed to be comfortable; his battle scenes were easy to parse and the character interaction stuff showed nuance. I'm still interested, because I got the bug a long time ago, but I am getting a little restless. Hopefully we won't get strung out too much longer. B+

MARTIAN CONFEDERACY TPB: Continuity and First Moon's Jason McNamara returns with an ambitious Sci-Fi saga that borrows from a number of sources, but manages to stitch them all together into a readable little saga. Set in a distant future in which a colonized Mars is presented as a run-down tourist attraction, with a corporate controlled air supply system, we're given lead Boone, who's a live-by-his-wits kinda guy who deals in junk and such and ekes out a living; Lou, his snarky femdroid friend, and a anthropomorphic bear dude named "Spinner" who gives him a hand upon occasion. At the beginning, a scientist friend of our company comes up with a way to make Mars' atmosphere breathable for everyone, and of course the government, represented by a thuggish fellow named Alcalde, who is willing to go to murderous lengths to maintain the staus quo on the less-Angry, more-Destitute Red Planet. Yep, this is all pretty much been-there, seen-and-read that territory, and things progress more or less like you expect them to. Still, McNamara has talent, as First Moon proved, and he's clearly put a lot of thought into his scenario- so while this is an overly-familiar refrain, it's still a pleasant enough song. I wish McNamara had better luck with his collaborators; Continuity and Moon's Tony Talbert had a raw and loose, but energetic style which worked better with the former than the latter, but it could have used more polish. Confederacy's Paige Braddock has a mini-comic style, but she's trying to draw a graphic novel epic and she's just not up to the task. There's a crudeness to the figures, as well as a lack of confidence in the sequential progressions and practically nonexistent backgrounds that just doesn't help the script at all. It's not egregiously bad, but her work looks like it would be better served on three-panel slice-of-life humor strips than this sort of endeavor. Martian Confederacy is an agreeable page turner, but sadly nothing special. C+

PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT #3 - I'm sorry- this is wonderfully drawn, but it's as shallow as a mud puddle on an asphalt highway and while I'm sure Immonen is trying really hard to write a breezy, fun story, it's just too scattershot and random and (yes, here's that word again) incoherent for me to really get behind. Of course, I'm in for the long haul (preordered, that is), so I hold out hope that she'll bring it home in grand fashion. I'm less and less optimistic on that score with every issue. C

SECRET SIX V2 #1: Everybody (well, everybody whose posts on this and the previous series I've read, anyway) seems to think this book is the bee's knees, but for the life of me I can't see why. It's utterly generic superhero stuff. Sure, it may have once been a little more "gritty", i.e., the characters might have been more unpleasant than the run-of-the-mill, but DC has spent years now living down to that standard, and thus what we end up with is just another title populated with characters that are charismatic in a seedy sort of way, some more handy with the quip than others, who go through the same motions that you can get pretty much anywhere within either universe of either major comics publisher. Anyway, as with V1 #1, for them that likes, here's more of the same. For what it's worth, the whole Catman and Deadshot at the grocery store holdup thing was cute. At least this issue didn't squick me out as much as V1 #5 did. C-

Here's a comic that has kinda slipped in there under the radar; what with all the Secret Invasion/Skrull hoohah, I guess there's only so much attention that can be paid, even to a series that has a pedigree like this. Pete Milligan, always worthy of attention, is the writer and he sets up a situation where the Sub-Mariner is thought to be a legendary being like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, and introduces a fellow who's made it his life's work to travel 'round the world and debunk such myths. Enter a group of businessmen with Chester A. Arthur facial hair and a lot of money, who hire this fellow, Doctor Stein by name, to find him and by extension, Atlantis. This seems to be a retelling of his origin, although the time period in which it's taking place is not specifically referenced. Artist Esad Ribac does a really nice job of establishing mood by painting the whole thing in dark hues intermingled with soft-focus pastels, giving it a sort of nostalgia-evoking Sky Captain mood. This promises to be a modest winner. A-

While it certainly seems that Si Spencer had to tie up a whole bunch of plot threads in one issue, thanks to this unfortunately overlooked title's cancellation, he managed to do so without too many stitches showing, and the series went out on a high note as far as I'm concerned. I can't add too much to what I wrote a few weeks ago about the first eleven issues; I guess this will be forgotten soon...but personally, I'll regard it as yet another short-lived series that I liked and few others did, and left too soon as far as I'm concerned. It would be great if Spencer and Gane could continue it somewhere else, but I won't hold my breath. A-

When the Beowulf crossover ended, I figured I'd stop my short-lived Wondy habit, but I had the chance to read the next issue I figured "why the heck not". It's a kinda schizo story; the first half features an awkward encounter between Wondy's new boy toy Nemesis and Queen Hippolyta on Themyscira as Diana brings him to meet the 'rent; it's supposed to be light and fun and is pretty much just that, and there's even a genuine laugh-out-loud moment at the end. It's here that I can see why Simone has such a cult of admirers. Then, we very abruptly switch settings to Hollywood and lapse into incoherence as Wondy goes out to negotiate the rights to a proposed film about her (pfft- everybody knows THAT isn't going to happen...!) and winds up encountering more than she bargained for of course in the form of a threat from an old JLA-era adversary. This set piece isn't nearly as successful, but also ends on a cliffhanger so I suppose the jury will have to remain out. Bernard Chang does the art honors, and does them well; his style is not one that stands out from the crowd these days, but he makes solid storytelling choices for the most part (more so in the first half than in the second) and his figure drawings are very appealing. Simone's Wonder Woman remains, to me at least (and based on only five issues), a good read, especially when she's not trying to give us superhero tropes. B+

Coming in the next Spinner Rack Junkie, reviews of AIR #2, TINY TITANS #8, and others.

Reviews of Vertigo's latest, GREATEST HITS #1, A-, and BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #11 C- can be found at

Friday, September 19, 2008



Ladies' Fight Night continues at the behest of the mighty BAHLACTUS! Tonight's mayhem comes from the mind and pen of Milton Knight, Jr., who plied his Terrytoons-influenced style in several indie comics series back in the wild and crazy 1980's. His most well-known comics work is probably Fantagraphics' Hugo, but unbeknownst to me he's been active throughout the last couple of decades doing illustration work and the like. The above sequence comes from his 1985 series Midnite the Rebel Skunk, which was released via the auspices of Blackthorne Comics. Glad to see he's still making a go of it- until I saw the above story posted at Comicrazys, I had forgotten about him.

Captain Fear

Since it is, after all, Talk Like a Pirate Day today, and I don't really feel like actually doing so, me bucko here's a splash page I found online for a pirate story I'd love to reread again- CAPTAIN FEAR, by David Michelinie and Walt Simonson, a three-part backup story which ran in, of all places, Unknown Soldier #'s 254-256 waaaay back in 1977. Of course, I was buying the Soldier back in those days, so I was very excited to see this pop up, and tempered my growing disenchantment to the lead, which was past its Michelinie/Talaoc heyday by then.

Stay tuned, Friday Night Fights tonight, and reviews coming this weekend.

Also, why not go here and help me to pay off my fantasy baseball debt?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Entirely unsolicited plug dept: The above-shown issue of BOOM!'s Zombie Tales series boasts the first published script by the most excellent Ian "Pal Ian" Brill, and I've no doubt that it is merely the first of many to come. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you reading this will run, not walk to your comics shop (or drive, as the case may be) and ask for it by name.

You see, if Ian becomes famous, then I can capitalize by finally drawing the four-page script he sent me a year or so ago. So, yes, I'm not being 100% altruistic here.

In the original version of this post, I popped off unfairly about BOOM! in that passive-agressive whiny bitchy way I have sometimes (unfortunately), and since then, I've been contacted by several folks from over that way, and they informed me what was going on- and it seems like there was a communications mixup almost a year ago, which none of us could help. Which is very nice of all of them, especially Chip Mosher, and totally unnecessary on their part since I don't mean to sound like I think I'm entitled to anything from anyone. Anyway, I think it's all (Hero) squared now, and I appreciate it very much. They're all aces there, as far as I'm concerned. Which doesn't mean that I won't pan some Warhammer book should I happen to read it...!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Above is an image which has me all-aflutter, either from anticipation and excitement, or from the realization that the end times could be upon us. What we see here is nothing less than the solicitation cover for the long-awaited (by me, and I suspect by more than a few others) and long-delayed double-sized grande finale of THE WINTER MEN, from DC/Wildstorm, as featured in their December solicits!

I don't know if anybody saw this post back in May, but let's just say that by and large I really liked this series, which made its debut in Summer of 2005 as an eight-issue limited series from WildStorm (at first it was to be a Vertigo series), then six, then eight again- then finally was to be finished as 5 issues with the fifth to be double-sized. This was announced sometime in late '06 or '07. And now, here we are in the waning days of 2008, and it finally seems to be going to happen. It's not so much that the previous four issues were flawless classics- I thought a couple of them got really bogged down in oblique storytelling to no good effect- but overall it was a refreshingly different sort of book, with outstanding, nicely detailed art by John Paul Leon, and Brett Lewis did a great job of establishing verisimilitude through his dialogue. I'd link you to my reviews of those issues, but at least two of them were written for Comic Book Galaxy, back when I was doing that review column, and have been deleted. Stupidly, I didn't cross post them here, although they may exist as a text file on my old computer. Anyway, I digress.

Guess I'm just trying to say that I'm looking forward to this one, and while it may very well be disappointing, especially with all the anticipation that's built up in my head over the last two years, at least it will finally be completed, over, and done with and I'll have one less thing in my head to obsess over. I wouldn't mind seeing it collected someday- it might read a lot better all in one sitting. Don't want to get too greedy, though! First things first.

That said, I'll believe it when I am clutching it in my sweaty palms.

Friday, September 12, 2008



The ladies' bouts continue after a one week recess! Tonight's exercise in feminine fisticuffs comes from 1974's Shadow #5, written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by the late, great Frank Robbins. Here, (click to see at full size) Shadow agent and society gal Margo Lane has found herself aboard a luxury liner that is hijacked by the nefarious Captain Sodom, a Nazi (even though he's not identified as such) rat who has been committing all sorts of acts of sabotage, trying to keep the US out of World War II. Margo overcomes one of Sodom's goons (I suppose he called his followers "sodomites", heh heh), but is cold-cocked (oy the puns) by Sodom himself. Still, taking out two Kinda-Nazi goons by herself is pretty good for Margo, who generally didn't indulge in the rough stuff.

It's funny- when these were coming out, I hated Robbins' funky, kinda awkwardly posed drawing style (very Caniff and Sickles influenced, although I didn't realize it at the time) and yearned for more Mike Kaluta. Now, as a theoretical adult, I enjoy Robbins' take almost as much as I did that of Mr. K. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I've been seeing these "Marvel Masterpieces Artist Sketch Cards" all over teh intarwub for months now; I don't know where the hell you can get them, or what you have to do or who you have to know, but multitudes of the outstanding artists whose blogs I follow have scored them, and have been posting them for those of us, the less fortunate and less worthy but no less appreciative. The above, a Nextwave set, is only a few of the excellent sketch cards that can be found at Mike Maihack's Buffalog- Maihack has a charming, deftly streamlined cartooning style that I really like a lot. He doesn't really have them tagged so I can give you a one-click-shows-all kind of link, but if you go here, here, with one more to come in the next day or so, you can check 'em all out.

I'm tempted to take one from somewhere, Photoshop out the art that's on the file, draw some of my own on paper, scan, and cut/paste. Boy, that sounds like a lot of trouble doesn't it? That's the price I pay for not owning a Cintiq, or some other kind of tablet. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Posting as been light, yes, I know. The deadly combination of being very busy at work all day and too tired to conceive rational blog posts in the evening has gotten me off the schedule I was kinda-sorta trying to maintain. Oh well. Tonight is no exception- I got nothin'. As has been my custom lately, especially because these are low-effort kinds of blog posts (as I'm sure many of you know), I thought I could share the contents of the DCBS shipment box I'm supposed to be getting on Friday with all of you, because I know how important this knowledge is to my faithful readers. Anyway, tally ho! Arriving this weekend, Crom willing, will be:

FABLES #75 - I think this is supposed to be a significant issue or something. I'm invested enough in these characters by now to view this with a soupcon of apprehension.

MANHUNTER #34 - one could be excused for mistaking this for an issue of Birds of Prey, I'd think. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

LOVE & ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #1 - New stuff from Los Bros., always cause for joy. Even at this price tag. What's up with all the high-ticket altcomics these days? Is it an "I've paid for my art, now it's your turn" kind of thing?

CRIMINAL 2 #5 - More cartoonist misadventures, stylishly done as always, I'm certain.

PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT #3 - There's a tiny part of me that hopes, what with all the Aleut mysticism and all, that Daimon Hellstorm fella will pop up. Silly me. LaFuente would probably draw him rocking a chartreuse trenchcoat or something, and it would still look good.

THE BOYS #22 - is it boorish of me to state that I'm kinda tolerating this current story arc, rather than actively enjoying it as much as I have previous arcs? Is it even possible to be boorish when discussing the oeuvre of Garth Ennis? Is "oeuvre" even a word I should be using?

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #3 - more chasing the weird kinda-Asian kinda-evilish guy around. I'm sure something will crumble or explode as well, and someone will snap at someone.

100 BULLETS #95 - I'm looking forward to an issue of this title for the first time in ages- I'm dying to know the aftermath of the Lono-Dizzy throwdown that took place in #94. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they don't even address it.

And that's it! I also have a few comics, acquired from various sources, that I have read and will most likey opine upon eventually, such as the aforementioned Secret Six V2 (V3?) #1 and Martian Confederacy (still not finished with that one yet), as well as Sub-Mariner: The Depths #1, Jonah Hex #35, and Final Crisis: Revelations #2. One or more of these, as well as the above listed, may be reviewed at; they've become desperate enough, I mean gracious enough, to invite me to play with them in their sandbox, and I have most humbly accepted the invitation. I've always liked that site; they have a readable layout, some good writers, and cover a wide variety of Pop Cultury stuff not limited to comics.

As always, please bear with the slow spells around here, and I thank all of you who still read me regularly for doing so.

Sunday, September 07, 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 August 31 through September 4, 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 #2: Giffen and Fleming make a great team, make no mistake, and everyone knows how much I admire the work of the erstwhile Thriller scripter...but this issue was one long rambling setup in search of a punchline that never arrives, and the occasional chuckle over a clever quip just doesn't compensate for the tedium. An Ambush Bug story can be a lot of things, but dull shouldn't be one of 'em. I know they're casting a comparatively wide net, and they're going after targets that need skewering, but next time I hope for a little less Mister Nebula (one of Giffen's lamest creations in his Justice League run) and a little more shopping for refrigerators. I chalk it up to rust. For now. C+

BLUE BEETLE #30: Blue Beetle keeps rolling along in its Blue Beetley way; storylines from the last couple of issues are expanded on, the supporting cast gets plenty of face time, Rafael Albequerque continues to deliver solid, dynamic artwork, and Matt Sturges does a fine job building not only upon previous storylines and cast, but also of goosing along what seems like a half dozen (I know, only really two or three) plot threads all at once. As was the case with Giffen and Rogers, sometimes a lot of the exchanges between characters doesn't seem to cohere, but maybe that's me- I don't see anyone else having this problem. Yet another example of a good superhero book that is being ignored by fandom in general; I suppose it's the lack of angst and SHOCKING DEATHS and so on that seems to be the ticket to mass success, or at least insofar as that relates to comics sales, anyway. Pity. B+

CATWOMAN #82: And speaking of outstanding superhero comics that have met with almost complete apathy by the comics buying masses at large, here's the poster gal. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke (with Mike Allred on inks) presented us with this radical new take; compared to the boobalicious purple suited Selina Jim Balent and his successors gave us, it seemed like someone had smacked us upside the head with a cool two-by-four. Straddling the line between the sleek, smooth crime film thrillers of the 1960's and modern-day superhero comic book shenanigans, it was a lot of fun, even after Cooke left and was replaced by (among others) Cam Stewart, who carried on in fine fashion. Then, after a stint with all-wrong Paul Gulacy on art, the book got a goose when Will Pfiefer took over from Brubaker and delivered, at first with Pete Woods and later with David y Alvaro Lopez, one of the most consistent, and consistently good, titles in the DC line. It was light when it needed to be, and angsty when necessary as well but not excessively so (and certainly not as dour as many of its contemporaries), and I suppose this, as well as the fact that it's a book with a female lead character- always a struggle for the rank and file fanman- have all contributed to its criminally low sales, and now, its cancellation. What a shame. And I dread seeing what we get next. But anyway, to the matter at hand- the finale really isn't anything revelatory or unique; what did you expect? The beginning of a 12-issue story arc? "Whatever Happened to the Pilfering Pussy"? Nah, it's a book-length chase scene with Batman hot in pursuit, with most of the previous issues' storylines being referenced if not resolved, and which leaves Selina's character pretty much reset as the grey-area criminal she was before the writers made her a shade more altruistic. As so often with this comic, it's low-key and very well done; won't leave you gasping or particularly moved, only somewhat angry that there's apparently no longer a place for a well-done, low key DC superhero comic these days. As others have said already, it was a great ride, and 82 issues is a hell of a run in these troubled times (a surprising 50+ for Pfiefer). Problem is, you come away thinking that this ride still had many miles left to go, and there's the pity. A-

DAREDEVIL #110: This just in: Matt SMILES. Yes, that's right, the tortured Man Without Luck gets to lighten up for just one panel. That's about the most distinctive thing about this issue; the seen-it-before main plotline gets resolved with a not-undue amount of struggle, it's well-scripted and very well drawn. I recognize that this is top-notch work by all involved. But there's a glum sameness to this title (you all know because I've been bitching about it forever and I guess I should just either shut up or drop the book), especially ironic considering that the title character was created to be a swashbuckling adventurer type, that I KNOW is consistent with the Miller/Bendis template...but it doesn't exactly make for an entertaining read. As Paul McCartney once sang, "it's a fine line." B+

DELPHINE #3: Y'know, I'm not trying to be all smartass or anything, and you all know my admiration for the skills and gifts of Richard Sala knows no bounds- but there isn't a hell of a lot going on this time out, especially when you factor in the cost. It's beautifully drawn as always, in his Hank Ketcham meets Charles Burns style, but the total effect of this issue is like one of those dreams we've all had in which we're running, running, running, looking for something, and never find it even though we stumble across several other things. I hate to be one of those people- you know- those who are always bitching about their money's worth...but I don't particularly feel like I got mine this time out. That said, I have every confidence in Sala to bring this home in grand style. B+

EL DIABLO #1: Reviewed at B

FINAL CRISIS: ROGUE'S REVENGE #'s 1, 2: As much as I've complained about the gloomy, self-important tone of most superhero comics these days, I'm sometimes as susceptible to falling for their charms as the next fanman, I suppose. Even though I haven't been a regular Flash reader since I was a preschooler (a long time ago), I always liked his villains- they hadn't formally named them the "Rogues" just yet- a colorful and diverse lot. Here, they get a spotlight series, and it picks up from where the clumsily-handled death of Bart Allen issue of Flash and Salvation Run left off, with the gang (Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, and Heat Wave, joined by the new kid Trickster) being hunted by the heroes for killing Bart, and on Libra's bad side for rejecting his Secret Society of Super-Villains. Originally, the group plans to retire and hang up their uniforms, until Libra enlists a new group of bad guys designed to copy their abilities- they injure the costume maker that the Rogues were friendly with, as well as kidnap Cold's father (whom he hates). At the same time, Professor Zoom, another old Flash nemesis, frees Bart's murderer Inertia from the stasis that Wally West put him in, in order to recruit him for Libra's Society as the new Kid Flash. The Rogues make short work of the imitators (and Cold's dad, too), and decide to settle up with Inertia as well, but Libra wants them on his side and is willing to go to extremes to get them, as #2's ending makes clear. Yeah, I know. A lot of what you get from this depends on how familiar you are with what's going on not only in Final Crisis, but recent Flash history as well, and although I've been keeping up with the former I'm only somewhat familiar with the latter, having only read that infamous issue #13. This is all very grim and dire stuff, as the rank and file DC book tends to be these days- grim times call for grim villains, or so the thought process seems to go, and that's certainly the case here. Still, the internal logic of the story works, the Rogues themselves get a fair amount of screen time and some depth of characterization, and the grubby, overrendered Scott Kolins art suits the material. Another good job by Geoff Johns, who seems to be hitting on all cylinders these days. I can't imagine why anyone besides Flash fans and those who are trying to follow along with Final Crisis would give a damn, but I'd be willing to bet that there are much worse FC tie-ins out there. B+

FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND #1: Gosh, what a mess. On the surface, it's a look at what's been going on with Supes during the events of Final Crisis, including his recruitment to save the world (along with a handful of alternate-reality versions of himself) at the behest of a being who stops time so he can do soInstead of the accessible Grant of All-Star Superman we get something closer to The Filth or The Invisibles as he once more goes all metatextual on us, messing with perception, not only ours but the characters', on multiple levels. But that's not to say that this is impenetrable; it actually seems like (whether by choice or editorial mandate, which I doubt) that he's trying to meet us halfway, and rather than go deeper into obfuscation he pulls back and lets us grasp some of the concepts and ideas he's putting forth. It's still way to chaotic and ofen nonsensical- he further explains the whole thing of massaging Lois' heart with his heat vision to keep her alive, and it still just doesn't make sense- but there is a certain inevitability to the events that build up a good head of steam, and makes me want to see where it ends up. It doesn't hurt that it's all drawn by Doug Mahnke, whom you all know that I think is one of the very best superhero artists working in mainsream comics today, and whose work here shines, even when muddied up by the inessential 3-D process sections. B+

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #'s 1-5: You know, It goes without saying that DC would really like to find another book that captured a group of readers like Sandman did, and to that end they've given us title after title, some Sandman-like in spirit, and some literally spun off. Even though Lucifer (the best of the bunch, really) had a good long run, none of the others have managed to catch fire even as well as that one did. Me, I think it's just because it captured a moment in time with a number of young readers (and this late 20-something), and that moment has passed; morphed into something similar but different. This is DC's latest attempt, taken straight from the source by way of the failed Dreaming title; if you've read any of Gaiman's Vertigo work, or any of the many successors, then you know what to expect from this- it's cut from exactly the same cloth. Basically, it's a lot like Munden's Bar, except the Bar is the House of Mystery minus Cain and no longer in Kentucky, I assume. This is, if memory serves, a continuation of a Sandman storyline which has been revisted once or twice since. There's a regular staff of barkeeps and barmaids, and a parade (well, a short one so far, we're only up to issue 5) of characters that go in and out, and each one has a story to tell (each one drawn by a different artist, such as Jill Thompson in the best example), stories being the legal tender in this new House. We're set up to identify with a young blonde lady named "Fig", a perfectly twee-sounding Gaimanish name for a perfectly twee Gaimanish heroine, who stumbles into the House when she's pursued by some mysterious shadowy ghost people who want the blueprints that she's drawn of a House that she's dreamt of. Guess which one. She soon ends up working at the House because like the others she can't leave, and of course there's going to be further trouble down the road. Add to that another subplot about a previous waitress that actually got to leave, and the at-least-once-an-issue story that a patron tells...and really, there's a lot going on, as familiar as it all seems. That Blue Beetlin' Matt Sturges scripts; he proves to be as comfortable aping Gaiman as he is Willingham- not that there's all that much difference actually- and he's keeping all the multiple plot threads relatively untangled and flowing smoothly. New-to-me artist Luca Rossi's style also fits right in to that Vertigo formula; it looks like a mix of Buckingham and Mignola, similar to mid-Aughts Ryan Sook, or a less stiffly posed and much less pretentious Tony Harris. When you think about it, it's the perfect style for this book, which is still readable despite its complete genericity. I think it's better than The Dreaming, for what that's worth, but if you're looking for innovation or stunning originality, then keep looking. B

MADAME XANADU #3: Madame X is now in that decreed stately pleasure dome of none other than Kublai Khan, and ensconced as an advisor to same. She gets mixed up with court intrigue, and the Phantom Stranger again. Good idea, logical extension of what little we know about the character and her place in DC history, Wagner has gotten it in gear after a stumble out of the gate. Manga-influenced artist Amy Hadley is in her element here, with the Oriental stylings that are part of the situation giving her room to expand on the script. Very nice cover as well. A-

NORTHLANDERS #9: In which we move ahead a few years and meet a young boy named Edwin, who lives in the town of Lindisfarne, (no, not this Lindisfarne, which I thought of first, not knowing the story of the historical Lindisfarne...and I know, I'm probably the only person that made that connection- but that's just the way I am, I suppose) and whose lot in life is unfortunate indeed as he receives much abuse at the hands of his religious nut father, whose tough love is fueled by regret at the death of his wife giving birth to this boy, and his lunk of a brother. That promises to change as he finds himself on the beach as a rading party of Vikings sail ashore, and he finds himself in a position to get a little payback. Good slice-of-ancient-history writing by Wood, and I was especially happy to see new artwork from Dean Ormston, a real underrated illustrator who always shined when doing fill-ins on Lucifer, among other books. All in all, another fine issue; I had been considering dropping the monthly to get trades instead, and I ordered this thinking it was one and done. Guess I'll be getting one more single! A-

SCALPED #20: We get deeper into the head of Red Crow's daughter Carol this time out and it's not a pretty place. She and lead Dash Bad Horse are caught in a co-dependent downward spiral, and we get ringside seats as the various loose ends of the previous storyline still make themselves felt, never really getting resolved- but I'm sure it's a matter of time. Not exactly the happy fun comic of the two weeks' period, but no less gripping reading. Artwise, Davide Furno is fine, but I'll be glad when Guera comes back. A

Coming soon, reviews of SECRET SIX V3 #1 and THE MARTIAN CONFEDERACY.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I'm working on reviews, honest, but in the meantime I want to take a minute of your time and "hip" you (I don't blab the drab gab, I chatter hep patter) to the sale that the fine folks at TOP SHELF COMIX are putting on right now. But don't take my word for it- this is what they have to say:

To celebrate The Surrogates movie wrapping principal photography, surviving San Diego, and all the cool new summer and fall releases, for the next ten days -- thru Friday September 12th -- Top Shelf is having a giant $3 graphic novel web sale. When you visit the site, you'll find over 125 graphic novels and comics on sale -- with 90 titles marked down to just $3 (!) and a slew of other key titles just slashed!

Any help y'all could give in getting the word out on the sale would be greatly appreciated (as we only do this about once every two years).

To go directly to the list of items on sale, just click here:

Here are a few sample sale items:
-- $3 Books: Comic Book Artist, I Am Going To Be Small,
Lower Regions, Regards from Serbia, That Salty Air,
-- $3 Books: Alec - After the Snooter, The Mirror of Love,
The King, Fox Bunny Funny, plus 90 more!
-- Slashed Prices: From Hell Hardcover, Lost Girls, Blankets,
Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Owly, Korgi, and more!
-- Slashed Prices: Super Spy, Essex County Trilogy,
Incredible Change-Bots, The Surrogates, and more!
-- Freebies with every order: Yearbook Stories,
The 2008 Top Shelf Sampler, and Owly & Friends!

Please note that Top Shelf now accept PayPal (as well as Visa,
MasterCard, Amex, and Discover -- all secure), and that this
sale is good for "direct market" retailers as well (and comic
book shops will get their wholesale discount on top of these
sale prices).

This fulfills my Good Neighbor Comics Blogger duties for the month. I don't mind shilling for TS because they all seem to be very cool people, plus they have sent me boxloads of books in the past so I am kinda beholden to them. I only wish that someday they would put out an affordable edition of Lost Girls... I'd love to read that one but no can do the hardcover. One of the many titles on sale is James Kochalka's rude and hilarious and NSFW (for language, if nothing else) Superf*ckers, which I wish would come out again's a page!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another day, another BSBdG to send out- this time to WALT SIMONSON, who is 62 years young today!

Just like with Kaluta, Kirby, and Colan, Simonson's groundbreaking art was galvanizing to me as a young man- his playful use of onomatopoeia, his dynamic figures and layouts, all were some of the most exciting things I had ever seen, comics-wise, in the mid-to-late 70's. I'm pretty sure the first place I saw it was on the excellent Manhunter backup feature he did with Archie Goodwin in Detective Comics, issue 438 to be exact. Yes, that was chapter 2. Yes, I was always late for the party, even at age 13. After that, I made it a point to pick up anything I saw Simonson's byline in, even though he often was inked by some pretty dodgy inkers. His exciting take on Dr. Fate in First Issue Special #9, his excellent take on Captain Fear in Adventure Comics, brilliant stints on Hercules Unbound (especially when self-inked, towards the end- they had Wally Wood inking him early on- Wood was one of the greats, but his inking style didn't mesh with Walt's pencils) and Metal Men, as well as two of my all-time favorite Batman stories- one, which appeared in Detective #450, titled "The Cape and Cowl Deathtrap", which featured a GREAT one-panel shot of Batman leaping, in a pose that I'd never seen anyone attempt with Bats before...he also took the radical step of drawing Batman with SHORT EARS, for the first time since at least the late 60's. Also, the above-represented Batman #312, which made me a lifelong fan of the poorly-regarded Calendar Man character.

When he went to Marvel as the 80's began, I wasn't quite as thrilled...but after I saw his take on Thor, which many fans revere to this day, I wasn't quite as disappointed. He did sone good work after that, especially on Fantastic Four, and it was interesting to read his Star Slammers graphic novel, which was visually sharp but light in the story department...but he seemed to get mired in the X-book/Shooter regime quagmire that claimed many fine writer/artists back then...and despite some good covers for both companies, it wasn't until his smart and energetic 90's take on Jack Kirby's Orion that I started paying attention again. However, that didn't last long- I didn't care for his Elric take at all, and I haven't seen anything of consequence since.

However, Simonson is a creator who always demands one's attention, no matter what he does...and for all the thrills of my teen years, I will always revere the man's work. Hope he's having a great day.