Friday, November 28, 2008


After a one-week hiatus, I'm back with another entry in the Webwide smackdown event. Tonight's Round 3 clobberation comes from the far-flung future via 1952, the 5th issue of Jetta, to be precise. I don't know a damn thing about this title, but it seems to be mixing Archie with The Jetsons, a good ten years before the Jetsons even existed. In this story, poor Zoomer Brown wants to join a college fraternity, and the fratboys are really putting him through the business, so to speak, here getting him in deep doo-doo with his cute girlfriend. Said girlfriend makes her feelings known with a whizzz and a clunk.

Artist and writer unknown; found via the Nedor-A-Day website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even though this less-than-cheery image would suggest otherwise (I'm on vacation, and just don't have time to search for covers), I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Time now for the footsball and the eatings.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Here we go again with 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 November 7 through the 24th, 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 #97: Yep, you guessed it: another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll continue to cut and paste this review for the next 3 issues. Wow. Three issues to go. Seems like only yesterday that this title premiered. A-

BATMAN: CACOPHONY #1: In which Kevin Smith once more deigns to dabble in comic book scripting, in between simultaneously wallowing in his established film style (via Clerks II, which had its moments) and trying to escape from it (via Zach and Miri make a Porno, which I haven't seen). I liked his early Daredevil OK, but after that he went to often-ridiculously-overdue projects in which I had no interest (Spidey/Black Cat) and one which offended the old-school, uptight DC fanman in me (I really try to suppress that guy, really I do, but I couldn't help it this time), his disgusting revamp of Stanley and his Monster in his Green Arrow stint- I mean that one really chapped my ass- and I've managed to avoid his comics work ever since. Unfortunately, he's in similar lowbrow mode here. While the basic "Deadshot attempts to take out hit on Joker in Arkham at the behest of Max Zeus" storyline is decent enough, no better or no worse than those which have appeared in hundreds of Batman comics over the last fifty years, Smith's execution of same is so smirky and juvenile that he effectively hamstrings any chance it has to get off the ground. It reads more like Jay wrote it, actually, snootches. He complicates it a bit by inserting one of his old self-created Green Arrow badguys, Onomatopoeia (the only comic book villain to share a name with a Todd Rundgren song title), giving the miniseries its name, but this character doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, nor does he make things more interesting. Not helping is the staggeringly ordinary art of one Walt Flanagan (just who the hell IS this guy, anyway?); it's absolutely stunning in its stunning competence, and total lack of anything that approaches a recognizable, individual style. Was a time when crap like this would come and go as a 2-or-3 issue stint in an anthology book like Legends of the Dark Knight- now, it gets its own miniseries and the attendant attention that comes along, not a little due to the presence of Smith, who still has a little cachet among the faithful and which DC hopes will translate into sales of more than 20K copies. That may happen, and he may have a great comic series in him somewhere, but based on the evidence in this first issue, this ain't it. C-

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #5: Mostly neat and tidy wrap-up of what has been a very messy, overblown, all-over-the-place five-issue chapter of this ongoing saga. If I wasn't necessarily blown away, I did like a few things here and there- Kate Corrigan finding a boyfriend; the small character bits involving Krauss, Panya and Abe- and Guy Davis art always makes it worthwhile. And once more, the familiar refrain: this will probably read better collected. B+

Last time I saw this 70's character, he was in the pages of Warren Ellis' lamented-by-me Hellstorm, an alcoholic pawn of Heaven in its war on Hell. Don't know what's been done with him since, but it doesn't matter because this is something totally different, as a soldier in Iraq gets mixed up with demonic activity and discovers that he's heir to a devil-fighting tradition that dates back centuries. The plot is nothing new, but the setting is somewhat novel and gives this some juice. Mostly, I checked this out because of Chris Samnee, whose art impressed me a while back when I saw it on his website. Here, he kinda comes across as similar to Kano of early issues of Dial H For Hero fame or Pete Snejbjerg, slightly cartoonish but not excessively so. I don't see this going in a particularly innovative direction, but as long as Samnee draws it, it's worth a look. B+

DETECTIVE COMICS #850: Look- this whole "Hush removes Catwoman's HEART" crap is hooey of the first order, as Dr. Polite Scott will tell you. But Paul Dini is skillful enough to serve you a bullshit sandwich and convince you that it's prime rib, and that's roughly equivalent to the trick he pulls in this, the finale to that storyline. Even though I only skimmed the first couple of chapters, I had no trouble following along with this last one, and kudos to Dini for that as well. The action stuff worked well, the character stuff did too, and it's all drawn well by Dustin Nguyen, whose style kinda looks sketchy and unfinished sometimes, and is just too manga-derived for me to embrace it completely, but is stylish nonetheless and not hard to look at. I don't regret missing the previous issues by this team, but I thought this was a pretty good read. B+

DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 03: Three issues into this most unlikely reprint collection series, and it's more of the same genre-hopping that we saw in the previous two; in one story, Diana does the government spy thing, in another she's taking part in a sword-and-sorcery adventure, here she's in a Gothic horror story right out of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love; there, she's in a Prince and the Pauper scenario. It's as if Mike Sekowsky was choosing plots out of a hat. Despite this, it's his most consistently good run, script-wise, yet- coincidental plot twists are kept to a minimum, the sexism and slight racism is downplayed, almost nonexistent, and his dialogue scans easy as well. Still, one wishes he'd chosen a direction and stayed with it; no doubt he thought he was exploring possibilities, but the tone shifts from one story to the next are kinda jarring. Yeah, I know, these were never intended for collection and reading in one sitting like many of today's series are, so slack will be given. Most of these stories had Sekowsky pencils with inks by Dick Giordano; An adaptable inker, Giordano pretty much just emphasizes all the hard edges in Sekowsky's style; not as streamlined and slick as his own inked pencils or his work with Neal Adams, it kinda looks crude more often as not and while it's tolerable, I've always preferred the more softer-edged inks of someone like Sid Greene on Sekowsky's pencils. Wally Wood inks one episode, and not having seen Wood over MS before, it was interesting...sometimes Woody could overwhelm a penciller, but not in this case. They looked pretty good together, I thought. Also rounding out this collection is a World's Finest teamup with Superman; scripted by Dennis O'Neil and drawn by Justice League stalwart Dick Dillin, it suffers from lifeless art and a dated, terribly dialogued script, even though it does feature an early instance of Supes being attracted to, and hitting on even, Ms. Prince. I don't know if I can recommend these volumes to fans of today's comics, but they do have their charms and I, for one, am continuing to enjoy the series. B+

FABLES #78: Well, I don't mind telling you that seeing the fate of the Fafhrd and Mouser anagrams in this one didn't bum me out quite a lot; I guess Ningauble and Sheelba weren't paying attention this time, because I don't think they'd approve of what this Morpheus-alike is doing to their boys. Otherwise, another solid issue of this most engrossing and consistently readable series; far from casting around directionless in the wake of the Homelands coup, we now have what seems like a dozen possible storylines popping up, all of them intriguing. Good times. A-

FINAL CRISIS: RESIST #1: I read a few early issues of Checkmate, but just couldn't hang; the book was just so exposition-heavy that it was often a chore to read. I've liked Greg Rucka's work in the past, but in this case his apparent need to be constantly explaining and identifying just wore me down. It changed writers at least once not long after I dropped it, and of course had a merry-go-round of artists, but I was never really tempted to revisit it, until now we get a last hurrah of sorts as Rucka (with Eric Trautmann) once more writes the book in service of yet another Final Crisis tie-in- and I don't know whether he abandoned his overwriting tendency earlier, or figured it wasn't necessary this time out, but this is a lean, mean little comic book story, as he gives us an account of the organization's struggle against the spread of Anti-Life and the minions of Darkseid. Good character spotlights on a disparate bunch- Mr. Terrific (a busy fella, between this and the JSA), Snapper Carr, and the Cheetah all getting a little face time, and in the case of the last two, some of the highly random and very intimate type. We also revisit the whole Brother Eye/OMAC thing, which I missed out on because I, well, resisted buying the previous crossover event that spotlighted them, and only experienced through the crossovers in books like Manhunter. Nice job on art by Ryan Sook, as always; it's interesting to see how his style has evolved from its Mignola-lite early days to something which is now more reminiscent of J.H. Williams III. One of the better chapters in this increasingly-messy event. A-

GALVESTON #1: In which we get an imagined team up between Alamo hero Jim Bowie, of all people, and Jean Lafitte (not to be confused with Jean LaFoote, the barefoot pirate) as they have a Pirates of the Caribbean-flavored adventure on a ship on the Gulf of Mexico. Seems the crew of Lafitte's ship wants some gold they think he has, and is willing to mutiny to get it. Buddy-pic hijinks ensue. It's a neat foundation on which to build an adventure, I guess, and it's not like there's a plethora of Jean Lafitte and Jim Bowie adventures out there...but the adventure itself is one we've all seen before so that's a bit of a drawback. It may get better, though; according to the credits many and divers hands have been involved with this title's gestation...Grand High Poobah Ross Richie, nominal scripter Johanna Stokes, and credit is given for plotting to Old Man Tom and Young Pup (I presume) Mark Rahner. One would like to think that those heads, when put together, can come up with at least a few ideas between them. Artwise, the first few pages are drawn by an aspiring Maleev named Greg Scott; the remainder by one Todd Herman, whose style is a bit more crisp and angular and comes across a bit more lively because of it. Pirates may be so 2005, but this is a title worth watching for the novelty of the leads, if nothing else. And maybe, just maybe, if it becomes a TV series then Glen Campbell will sing the theme song! B-

: Most of the cast is still working their way down into the lower floors of the House, trying to find a way out, and snark/bicker/make love etc., as well as make a most pathetic discovery in this issue's cliffhanger. This is wrapped around a neat little interlude that scans like a Fables inventory story (unsurprisingly scripted by Bill Willingham, with slightly Corbenish art by Mouse Police's David Peterson), told by one of the HoM Tavern patrons, about a war between cats and birds. Here's another title which isn't exactly blowing me away by any stretch, but remains interesting enough to hold my interest. It might help if the cast didn't seem to either be stereotypes or ciphers. Still time, I guess, to improve. B+

JACK STAFF #19: Jack keeps rolling merrily along, in a readable if a bit complacent groove, with Grist entertaining us as always with his ADD (not this guy) storytelling style and wry tweaking of superhero story conventions. As so often is the case, this time out our hero really doesn't do much except get into mischief in Tom Tom's command center; the spotlight is ceded to a rotating cast of backups, including the guy on the cover, one Somerset Stone, whom I dare you to read his dialogue and not hear Sean Connery. If you're attuned to what Grist is doing, then this is another good issue. If not, get thee to some trade collections forthwith and report back here! A-

Reviewed at B+

MANHUNTER #36: They finally wind up that whole Meta-factory in Mexico thing, which really dragged on an issue or two too long; Kate gets to deliver an impassioned speech and deal with the aftermath of her cowboy actions in shutting it down; more with her kid who now has superpowers; and preggers Chase continues to try and find unworthy boyfriend (well, in my opinion anyway) Dylan Battles, on the run from the Joker, and considers abortion. Unfortunately, Andreyko felt the need to undercut Kate's victory, realistic I guess, but also deflating to say the least. Oh well, in a couple more months this book will be dead, she'll go on to make many anonymous appearances in whatever will take the place of Birds of Prey or some team-up book or another, and it won't make any difference whatsoever. Welcome to being a comics fan in 2008, kids. B+

PUSH #1: Another movie tie-in, way in advance of what I understand is a film seeing release next year; it appears to be a kinda by-the-numbers X-Files meets Heroes meets, oh, I don't know, pick your own favorite government conspiracy/group of misfits with extraordinary powers/wannabe action thriller kinda thing. Whatever you choose, it will apply; this is a smorgasbord. I like the work that writers Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin have done in other places, and I know they're capable of better; the always-outspoken Bernardin has of course Said the Right Thing and has defended this on the Web here and there, 'cause he seems to be a stand-up dude and really, this is work-for-hire, nothing more, so I don't blame him, really. The artist choice didn't do them any favors, either- utterly bland and generic, it's competent, but the figure drawing is often stiff and the layouts just sort of lie there on the page; servicing the story and little more. Good cover by Jock, as usual, but believe me when I tell you that you've read this before many times. If you want to drop tree-fitty to read it again, well, that's your business. Don't say I didn't warn ya. C+

TERRA #1: Can anybody out there give me a reason why this should even exist, except as a vehicle for the lovely artwork of Amanda Connor? Anybody? Outside of fanfic writers, is there a huge Terra cult who has been clamoring for a revised version of Marv Wolfman and George Perez' bucktoothed blonde team chemistry saboteur? I don't know- but somehow, I doubt it. Then again, I am a heathen infidel stranger to the ways of Titan fandom, if such a thing exists...I stopped buying Teen Titans in the late 80s and have rarely been moved to revisit. Anyway, the art is excellent. Story, servicable but again, what's the point here? Trees are dying, maaan... B+

TOP TEN: SEASON TWO #2: Just between you and me and the entire internet, I know that Zander Cannon isn't Alan Moore (I don't think...), but I'll be damned if I can tell all that much difference between Moore's original series and this continuation. I'm sure there are subtle differences, but for my money, I'm getting a good recognition buzz as Cannon puts the myriad of characters through their paces, and that's incredibly wonderful to see. Especially impressive is the dramatics involving the new Girl 2, and the grief that Irma Geddon is feeling over her predecessor (who was her partner)'s death; there's a great scene towards the end of this issue in which Irma calls Synathesia, who feels responsible for Li (Girl 1)'s demise, taking up Syn's offer...but in an example of how people can be unwittingly cruel, the latter winds up getting the emotional release of conversation at the expense of the former. There's a lot of psychological drama going on there that I can't adequately articulate, but I don't think Moore could have handled it any better. Perhaps it's because Gene Ha is back this time as well; it looks like Top 10, so all the appropriate visual cues are intact. Ha thankfully eases up on the soft-focus stuff that slightly marred #1, and the work is more pleasing to the eye because of it. I liked the "bad guy" in the hostage situation early in this issue; a relative of Danny the Street, perhaps? A

UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK #1: Heavy handed political satire, slightly past its sell-by date. Rude, crude and occasionally chuckleworthy, but too often it reminds me of a lot of the emails I get from a right-wing friend of I guess this sort of thing is the opposite end of that spectrum. I think as a writer Ande Parks (whom I know more as an inker, and a darn good one) is capable of much better, and I really need to get my hands on Capote in Kansas (with art by that Samnee fella, see above) one of these days. Artist T.J. Kirsch has a decent enough cartooning style; if I squint I sometimes see some Gilbert Hernandez in there, believe it or not. Not really my cup of tea, but I'm sure some out there might find this amusing. C+

Holy crap, another lazy, uninspired, TV show/film tie-in. I sure do miss Gold Key comics sometimes; they knew how to do this shit back in the day. Storywise, it hits every beat that the old TV show did, with absolutely no spark or enthusiasm whatsoever. One would expect more from the co-scripter of July's motion picture, you'd think. The art is equally as static and lifeless, and it doesn't seem like the illustrator has much confidence in his own ability to work from photo-reference; he hits likenesses as often as he misses. I can see why DC might have wanted to have this in stores and bookshelves when the movie came out earlier this year, but that was months ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if it shipped late. Maybe it can tie in with the DVD release, which must be imminent. Fox, TimeWarner, listen: X-Files is played out. Let's just let it reside with the fond memories we had of 1994, OK? D+

I'm done for now, FINALLY, but I'll have more later, including a pair of books from Oni, Labor Days and Love the Way You Love, but I haven't had much time to read them lately, and a whole new box arriving Friday...I also received current copies of The Damned: Prodigal Sons (#3), Wasteland, and Tek Jansen, but I'm waiting for the trade on the first two, and my opinion hasn't changed about the latter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sweet cover by Dave Johnson for a comic I'll probably never buy, since I've never really been much of a Punisher fan. Oh well.

Just wanted to put something up since I haven't done so in a while; thanks to work, a part-time graphics job, and real-world distractions and stresses I'm not getting a lot of time to sit and write, and not a lot of inspiration when I, for the hundred thousandth time, please bear with and I'll have stuff soon- hopefully, a bunch of comics reviews if nothing else by the end of the weekend. Or not.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Y'see kids, back in the dim and distant era pre-internet message boards and blogs, readers were often moved to comment on comics via the antiquated means of typewriter and paper and snail mail. And from time to time, some editor would be moved enough to earmark these missives for publication. It became kind of a thing for those of us who wanted to opine and have said opinions read, not to mention the attraction of seeing these opinions sharing actual physical space in the very same publications we were opining upon. Now some were more proficient at this than others, and therefore some were published more often of course- I was never in the same area code, literally and figuratively, as the T.M. Maples and Olav Beemers- but my brief career as a letterhack encompassed a period from 1974, in Brave and the Bold #116 (my first few were mostly one-or-two-line team-up suggestions) through sometime in the late 70's, either with a letter in Unknown Soldier #210, August 1978, or, in the only letter I ever had printed in a Marvel comic, Captain Marvel #57 (July 1978), in which (if memory serves) I complained about Pat Broderick's rendition of cornfields in Kentucky. After that, it just ceased to be a priority as I started working full-time and got married not long after...but I was moved enough, sometime early in 1984, to shoot off a missive to DC that saw print in the final issue, #12, of Thriller. The above image is one other that I had see print at about this time, in Batman Family #20 (cover date October/November 1978) and since I recently ran across a scan of the letters page, I thought I'd share, even though I kinda cringe at my choice of words in this one- Mike Golden has become a "mature artist"! Guess this means he shaves and everything! And the Man-Bat "strip". Uh, kid, this isn't a comic strip.

I can still understand, though, why I was so excited by Golden's version of the Demon- Golden was the first person that drew Etrigan in a different fashion than that which Kirby established; he accentuated the eyes, making them bigger on his face and emphasized the eyelids, and made the ears longer and more pointed..where Kirby's Etrigan looked pugnacious and gnomish, Golden's looked reptilian and evil, and it was such a radical change that I'm surprised Vinnie Colletta and Carmine Infantino let it pass. It excited me, I'll tell you that- Golden's art blew me away when I first saw it, and his Demon was icing on the cake. I look back at it now, and I'm not so wild about it; since so much time has passed and so many artists have been influenced by him and his contemporaries at the time, it has lost its radical edge and just looks kinda dumpy and stiff to my eyes now. I'm still fond of it in a nostalgic way, though. Golden's work these days is far more polished and streamlined, and as so often is the case is technically better, even if it lacks the spunk of the early stuff. At right is a Golden page from this issue, a conversation between Batman and his co-star in this issue, Ragman, with inks by Bob Smith. Click to see it bigger.

Anyway, this one was kinda exciting to me, as I recall, because I was a fan of the still-newish Ragman character, and was really digging the Batman Family book in general at the time, as it was featuring some good Batman & co. tales with art by Mike Golden, Jim Starlin, and others, and the Man-Bat feature, written by Bob Rozakis, was pretty good too. As it turned out, the promise of a Len Wein/Mike Golden Demon did came to pass, but not in the pages of Batman Family- it was a victim of the DC Implosion, and many of the scheduled BF stories ended up in Detective, I believe. I don't think that there were very many more Wein/Golden Demon stories all totaled, either. Oh well, water under the bridge.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

(click to supersize each page)

For your reading pleasure, one of my absolute favorite Jerry Grandenetti Warren stories, from Eerie #9: "Rub the Lamp"- in which an antiques dealer finds a magic lamp, and gets more than he bargained for. This is the story which got me to notice Grandenetti's hallucinogenic 60's style when I was a kid, even though I'd seen it in other stories in previous issues. Everything in this story, with its distorted figures, brittle, jagged panel borders and vertiginous perspectives literally radiates dismay, greed, and fear; I don't know if the term "expressionistic" applies exactly, but I think it's awfully close. His was never an attractive in a conventional sense sort of style, especially when compared to the Adamses, Woods, Crandalls, Kirbys and Morrows that were his contemporaries, but when it came to helping the reader get a feel for the vibe that this sort of horror tale was trying to get across, as far as I'm concerned it really did the job in excellent fashion. Joe Orlando's work at this time looked a lot like this- in fact, there were a couple of Warren stories that I had associated with Grandenetti for decades that I came to find out were actually Orlando's. But Grandenetti, I think, did it with a bit more gusto. I'm not familiar with the writer of this tale, one Allan Jadro; I wonder if it wasn't a pseudonym. Archie Goodwin wrote most of the stories in those days for this magazine, but it stands to reason that he couldn't write everything...someday I'll have to dig out my Warren Companion and see if it can shed some light on Mr. Jadro's identity.

These days, when comics readers think of JG at all, it's mostly in terms of the mostly lackluster work he did later in his career with Joe Simon on stuff like The Green Team and Prez, or perhaps even the Eisnerish work he did pre-DC War comics...but for me, this is genius stuff, and I wanted to share.

Friday, November 14, 2008


It's a whole new day at Friday Night Fights; the mighty Bahlactus has passed the torch to the somewhat curiously-named Spacebooger, and after a short break we're back and in effect. The theme this time is onomatopoeia, defined by Mr. Webster as "the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it " or "the use of words whose sound suggests the sense". I think the fifth panel, and its attendant visual sound effect, qualifies in the case of the second definition- unless you're fond of Kevin Smith Green Arrow comics, you won't find too many examples of people shouting out "BAM" or "POW" as the slug someone. Anyway, I found this page at CSBG this morning; it's from Hulk #142, and it's one of those "you gotta see it to believe it" type stories (click on the CSBG link to read the pertinent pages) that only could have been conceived at the dawn of the 1970's, featuring a cameo from Tom Wolfe and the use of his "Radical Chic" stories as the springboard for a superhero slugfest. Weird.

Anyhoo, script by (who else?) Roy Thomas, pencil art by Herb Trimpe, inks by John Severin.

Notice any similarities between these two covers? I think I know where the inspiration for that classic Giant Turtle Olsen story came from now...

Pulp scan found at Golden Age Comic Book Stories; Jimmy Olsen cover from the GCD.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Well! Those of us who get our comics shipped to us from DCBS via DHL are all a bit nonplussed by the news that the shipping service has decided to suspend operations in the US. How will they ship our precious books now? UPS? FedEx? USPS, even? Who knows. Anyway, regardless, IMA GUNNA GET NOO COMEEKS this weekend, I hope, and this is what they be, along with commentary when applicable:

DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 03: More madness from Mike Sekowsky; I'm not digging these stories quite as much as I thought I would, but they're still good, albeit somewhat sexist and even slightly racist, fun. These seem to be coming out quickly, with a Vol. 4 scheduled soon (with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser!). I still wish I had the originals, but these are a hell of a lot easier to find at an affordable price.

TOP TEN: SEASON TWO #2: I found myself really liking #1; hope it continues.

JACK STAFF #19: Paul Grist. It's been too long between issues, but I, for one, am a patient sort.

TERRA #1. If Amanda Connor illustrates it, I will generally tend to buy it.

THE SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS #1: P. Craig Russell. That's all I need to know.

100 BULLETS #97: I hope Dizzy gets some mad payback.

MANHUNTER #36: They cancelled this, did you know?


BPRD THE WARNING #5 (OF 5): Guy Davis. I'm beginning to take him for granted on these books, I believe.

I also made out my November DCBS order, and it looks like this:

100 BULLETS #99
HELLBLAZER #251 (I used to go out of my way to add the John Constantine: part, but the hell with it.)
JACK STAFF #21 (This one has the horrible Ian Churchill cover. I like my Jack by Grist or not at all)
UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #3 (This issue has the big Jerry Jones cameo, I think)
BLUE BEETLE #35 (How many more of these will there be, I wonder?)
B.P.R.D.: BLACK GODDESS #1 (Beyonce or Haille Berry, I wonder? Aw, I kid)
DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 04 (See? These things come out fast!)

Who SAYS I'm downloading too many comics?

Monday, November 10, 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 October 26 through November 7, 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.

Plot wheels grind slowly in this issue, and they're being spread awfully thin; we're still dealing with the leftover threads from the last few issues, and this time we get extended face time with legacy badguy Dr. Polaris, in a series of scenes designed to show us what an evil mofo he apparently is these days. As fast-paced as always, but this is coming across as inconsequential and slight, and that's not gonna move a whole lot of units...which is something this terribly sales-challenged book needs to survive. B+

THE BOYS #24: All the gross-out fratboy hijinks are clamoring to be the focus, but I'm liking the subtle character stuff more, such as the quieter scenes between the Frenchman and the Female, and Mother's Milk and the town cop as he investigates the death of Silver Kincaid. Here's the best-kept secret about ol' Garthie boy, y'see- while everybody remembers all the gross, irreligious, irreverent stuff in better works like Hitman, Hellblazer and Preacher, the glue that held them all together was the more-deeply-felt-than-you'd-think relatonship stuff as best exemplified by the three-way romance between Jesse Custer, Tulip, and Cassidy, John Constantine and Kit, or the BFF-style hijinx of Tommy Monaghan and Nat the Hat. It's here, too, but sometimes it hides. I can see it, though, and I hope you can too because that, and (once more) Garth's willingness to let his "good guys" be just as ruthless and arrogant as the "bad guys" is what keeps me reading. A-

CRIMINAL 2 #6: I said at the beginning of this arc that it this was not gonna turn out well for our kinda-sorta hero, and nothing I've seen since has convinced me otherwise, so there's a grim sort of inevitability to this story which truncates my enjoyment somewhat. Still, when you've got Sean Phillips illustrating your slow march to doom, that makes it worthwhile. A-

DAREDEVIL #112: Better than last issue, because if nothing else Brubaker once again gets to write Iron Fist for a few pages. Otherwise, this book remains in the same stylistic rut it's been in forever and a day now, but at least it's a still-mildly-interesting one, especially since Ed has expanded the focus a bit to work in even more recycled Miller concepts, the aforementioned Danny Rand, and that Tarantula dude he seems so fond of. Also nice to see Mike Lark back on pencils. I still have no use for this uninspired Lady Bullseye character though. B+

EL DIABLO #3: Writer Jai Nitz continues to establish the boundaries of his Robert Rodriguez-meets-Bernard Baily opus, working that "supernatural avenger from beyond the grave" thing for all it's worth as he establishes the ground rules as far as who's who and what's what. It's OK, even though we've seen it all before. I'm still enjoying the Phil Hester/Ande Parks art, too; it's as edgy and intense as the script demands. That said, I wish the parallel fight scenes in this issue had been spelled out a little more clearly; when you have your protagonists gain and/or lose their advantage off-screen, well, it doesn't help reader comprehension, I'm afraid. B+

FINAL CRISIS #4: There's so much noise going on with this book that it's hard sometimes to just look at it and see what's happening; between the scheduling gaffes and the artist foibles and adjusted expectations and so on, it sometimes seems that the actual story here is secondary to all the hoo-hah that has accumulated around it. Problem is, when you do actually try to look at this latest mega-event objectively, it presents itself as another ordinary "invasion of Earth by hostile extraterrestrials" saga, albeit one infused with the ideas of the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby. I've come to expect greatness from Morrison (and I'm not alone), but sadly, this is a mess, and it's a bit disingenuous on Grant's part as well since this is merely the basic template he seems to always follow when writing this sort of story- his JLA comes to mind, and it seems like one of his New X-Men arcs was similar in execution. Which is not to say it's a mess like his concurrent Batman: RIP, which suffers from poor art as well as overstuffed plot; there is some imagination, spark, and Morrison's trademark succinct dialogue style in its favor. But really, the only thing that's in doubt is just how the good guys will triumph and reestablish status quo...and that's an awfully ordinary objective to strive towards. So perhaps Grant is just the victim of heightened, maybe even unrealistic expectations here, but in my opinion it seems like he's aware of this- and figures that he can't win no matter what so why not just try meet them halfway and be done with it. Another bone of contention lately has been the change in artists, as J.G. Jones has found himself unable to meet the arbitrary deadlines that have become attached to this project and had to bow out. That's a shame, because Morrison and Jones have a good sort of synchronicity when they collaborate under normal circumstances...however, this isn't a normal project and deadlines are more of an issue, especially when retailers get in the mix. In this issue, he gets assistance from Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, whose work, with its dynamic action poses and lively layout style, has pleased me greatly in the past. They seem to be sublimating their tendencies in order to merge more smoothly with Jones' more designerly style here, however, and while overall the look is consistent, it doesn't really play to Pacheco and Merino's strengths at all. Anyway, come what may (as they sang in Moulin Rouge!) I'm in for the long haul, so we'll see how this all turns out. Is it wrong of me to hope that somebody shoots the Atom into Darkseid's ear again, just like Grant did in JLA? B+

HELLBLAZER #248: I'm really going to miss Andy Diggle on this book; nothing against Pete Milligan at all, and I'm sure he'll take ol' Conjob into some interesting places, but Diggle has such a great grasp of John's personality that it's been a pleasure to read his run so far. In this issue, we're still dealing with loose ends and characters from the last couple of storylines; John seems to sort things out in his typical fashion...but it seemed too easy, and it turns out there was a reason that it went as smoothly as it did. I have to give props to Leo Manco for really stepping it up a notch on art; his work is as good now as it's ever been since he came on board. A-

Reviewed at B+

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #19: For the second issue in a row, writer Duane Swierczynski's best efforts are undercut by murky, incoherent art by Travel Foreman, especially in the big showcase fight scene department- I mean, I've read this issue three times now, and I'll be damned if I can tell you much of anything about the battle between the Iron Fist Killer and the Mystical Cities Champions other than it seems to have ended at some point in a stalemate of some sort. It's just that choppy and poorly staged. I think he has a good handle on the characters, though, and this arc has been enjoyable enough- the opening confrontation is sparked by a pretty nifty twist (that I suppose I gave away earlier in this review, sorry), and even though the sudden-but-inevitable-betrayal at the end loses a little of its shock value because let's face it, the betrayer wasn't exactly one we had gotten to know very well, I'm engaged enough to see it through for the time being. I really wish that Travel would travel on, and give way to an artist that can compliment, rather than compete for attention with, Swierczynski's scripts. B+

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #122: I like fun as much as anybody out there, believe me, so when I kept seeing pages from this posted all around the Net, with its "CRAKKAJAMMA" and the admittedly hilarious "Prince of Atlantis! Check thyself!" line from the lead, well, I got curious. I don't fully understand everything that's at stake here, despite Sappho's best efforts to get me up to speed in the intro...but I don't guess it matters; breezy scripting, eye-pleasing art that's only a little stiff- that adds up to an entertaining comic that has me curious about others in the run. Hercules, or at least Marvel's version anyway, has always been a fun character, so it's good to see the tradition continuing in these troubled times. A-

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #20: On the other hand, this is not so much fun and is mostly devoted to that ongoing saga of Power Girl and her intradimensional adventures. I was never a fan of the old Infinity, Inc. book, nor of the 70's Justice Society revival (although I did have a fair amount of issues, mostly for the Wood inks), so most of this kinda leaves me cold. But, the characterization is solid if a little soapy, and even though competent but unexciting old pro Jerry Ordway draws about half of it, young buck Dale Eaglesham acquits himself well by comparison on his pages. Another good-enough chapter in the ongoing saga. B+

MADAME XANADU #5: In which Wagner and Hadley give us Madame X as a supporting character in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, continuing their Magical History Tour in mostly clever fashion. I like the on-again, off-again romance stuff with the Phantom Stranger, who conveniently keeps popping up when MadX is about to get in deep merde. I also think Hadley's pretty-face manga-esque style works very well with the Revolutionary French settings. Xanadu remains, if not essential, still interesting and enjoyable. A-

MIRROR'S EDGE #1: What sets this, the umpteenth attempt to capture the attention of the gaming crowd with comics (which is kinda akin to trying to capture the attention of hunters by promoting trap shooting), apart from other similar attempts is the stylized Oeming-cum-Mignola art of Matt Smith, he of The Keep, Astronauts in Trouble, and Day of Judgment fame. Even though his work is not quite on par with those gentlemen, he is a talented artist in his own right and he makes this visually interesting, at least, and certainly does a great job of reproducing the look of the game. Not being a gamer, I don't know what the lore is or what the objectives are, so I don't know how close this comics' account of a young, high-nerd-appeal Asian girl who gets recruited into what seems to be a group of people, couriers of a kind, who leap about on rooftops as they deliver sensitive information or what-have-you to people actually is to the source material. I do know that it can't be especially easy to craft any sort of narrative or storyline to what appears to be your basic running, jumping, shooting kind of game, and I'll give new-to-me writer Rhianna Pratchett, who apparently is involved in the game project in some capacity, credit for that. Well-drawn and mildly interesting, unlike about 99.9% of the rest of this genre, and if you're not expecting much, you might find this enjoyable. B+


SCALPED #22: I wonder how, sometimes, I can be so dismayed by the constantly-bleak tone of books like Daredevil, but continue to champion this, one of the most unremittingly dismal narratives to be found in sequential fiction these days. I know that it has a lot to do with the fact that this is straight-up real world drama, with no fantastic elements, and it achieves a resonance that other more larger-than-life, fantastical narratives have no hope of achieving. Anyway, we continue our focus on Chief Red Crow, the nominal bad guy of the piece, who is besieged from all sides by all sorts of threats even as he struggles to come to grips with his past even as he is trying to carry out a heartbreaking task in memory of his late love/adversary Gina Bad Horse. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera achieve an amazing synchronicity in their depictions of his memories and inner struggle; it's really something to see. Also, to a lesser extent we are watching young Dino Poor Bear, as he gets himself in deeper in his own troubles, which will certainly intersect with Red Crow's eventually. Another absolutely outstanding, deeply resonant issue. And yet, this comic sells less that 8,000 copies a month, no doubt due to the lack of magical fairy creatures or people who shoot force beams out of their hands...all I can do is hope, I suppose, that enough people are buying the trades (I myself bought the first two, foolishly dismissing this title after skimming issue #1) to make a difference and keep this going, at least until Aaron can bring it to some sort of conclusion. A

SGT. ROCK: THE LAST BATTALION #1: I'm not sure of Billy Tucci's research for this project went much deeper than screening Flags of Our Fathers and Saving Private Ryan, which this resembles, but I will say that I am absolutely amazed that his art, which I've previously associated with overly fussy and stiffly posed depictions of long-legged, Playboy-magazine-posed female ninja warriors and such, looks as good as it does on this subject matter- the soft focus touches, which seem to be so popular these days among some artists (Gene Ha is one which immediately comes to mind), really help add to the nostalgic air. Sure, Tucci's Sgt. Rock is downright metrosexual compared to the canonical versions by the likes of Joe Kubert, Ross Andru, Jerry Grandenetti and others, more Tyrone Power than John Wayne, I suppose- but not really ever having been much of a Rock fan in general (I was always more of a Sgt. Fury kid myself), I don't really care all that much. It's his scripting that bothers me a lot more- in attempting to pay tribute to, if not outright imitate, the inimitable Robert Kanigher dialogue cadences he just doesn't cut it, and the dialogue reads awkwardly to me. The everyman-whose-eyes-we-see-Easy cartoonist is a nod to Ryan, but it works OK and gives Tucci an opportunity to show us that he can do other styles as well. Setting Rick in the middle of a real-life wartime incident isn't a bad idea, however, so as far as I'm concerned the jury's still out. All in all, this turned out a lot better than I expected, and I appreciate the opportunity to be surprised...doesn't happen as much as it should. B+

SOLOMON KANE #2: Pretty much on a par with issue #1; well-written, passably drawn. Scott Allie has a good handle on Kane, and nails this issue's would-be seduction scene. Not having read the source for this tale, I'm looking forward to what develops. A-

SUB-MARINER: THE DEPTHS #2: Two issues in, and still no appearances by the fella whose name is on the front of the book...but that won't be such a problem when this is collected, which is probably how this should be read. I'm kinda liking this slow-moving, but dramatically valid, story which treats Namor like some sort of legendary creature being sought by a not-so-intrepid Skeptical Man of Reason, and the painterly soft-focus Esad Ribac art, which reminds me a bit of the visual style of Sky Captain. If you're the patient sort, you might too. B+

VIXEN: RETURN OF THE LION #2: This remains a resolutely mediocre showcase for a character that DC really, really wants us to like a lot. Storywise, fine if a bit on the cliched side as our girl, badly wounded by the supernatural badguy she scrapped with last issue, goes off into the plains to heal and see visions and stuff. Artwise, although the candy-colored color scheme is novel, "Cafu"'s figures are still stiff and his staging is bland. Showcases just aren't what they used to be. C+

Coming eventually, HOUSE OF MYSTERY #7 and more.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I'm a little surprised that I'm not seeing this at the comics news sites like Deppey, Tom, and Heidi...but hey, I was so impressed by this that I'll share and they can take credit later. Jill Thompson has posted three pages she found from an aborted Nightmare Before Christmas graphic novel adaptation, and I can't think of many more perfect matches of artist and subject matter. To be honest, I'm not that big a fan of the film, but these are wonderful- too bad that it didn't get greenlighted. Here's one page, click to see all bigga; for two more and the full story go here. And tell her Johnny B sent ya.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My father-in-law has a lot of irons in a lot of fires, and one of the biggest he has is in the auction business. I don't know if you're familiar with the estate auction end of it, but it's often a tedious and laborious process that involves cataloging and distributing the items that are for sale, as well as the physical labor involved when it's necessary to take these items, usually grouped into lots, outside into the designated areas (often onto large flatbed wagons) to be auctioned. Because I never seem to have enough extra income, and also because I want to help out, I often find myself working for him at these auction sales, which provides me with opportunities to see what's available before it goes up for bidding. Many of the houses and belongings he auctions were once owned by elderly people, and he often has many antiques available as another reason why I help out is (at least at first it was, anyway) because you never know when you'll run across an interesting old album or stack of magazines...or comics. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened very much at all, only once or twice in the 20+ years I've been involved with this, which is kinda discouraging to say the least- either no one in the five-county south central Kentucky area collected old comics and albums, or the families kept them and handed them down to survivors.

But, that isn't always the case, and in an auction about a month ago, I ran across a single copy, with no other comics in sight, of the book you see above left: BIG TOWN #26, cover date March-April 1954. It was intact, although the cover is torn, missing a chunk, and isn't attached to the body of the book. The pages are very yellowed. Now, I know most of you were under the impression that I go back as far as the James Knox Polk administration, but that's just not the case- while I'm aware of a great many TV shows, movies, etc., I had never heard of the television show this comics series was based on. Understandable- it last aired four years before I came into this world, 1956 to be precise. However, it was a DC Comic, so I contrived to have it added to another lot (which contained an intact APBA baseball game, with the 1979 season cards- more on that some other time, perhaps), and I was able to take the whole thing for a mere $2.50. When I got home, I did a little looking around on Wikipedia and found out that not only was Big Town a TV series, but also a radio show before that. The comics series, spawned by the advent of the TV show, lasted until 1958, two years before I was born.

So- is it any good? Actually, yes- it features three 7-page stories scripted by Silver Age Green Lantern stalwart John Broome, and art by veteran Manny Stallman, with inks by John Giunta, who did solid, if not especially memorable work for a number of publishers in the 40's on into the 60's and 70's, including a long stint drawing Big Boy comics. Mark Evanier posted a nice obit, as is his wont, for Stallman here. Typically, their work here is good, if not especially exciting or memorable- it's an unexceptional sort of style. The cover is by none other than Gil Kane, although obviously he had yet to develop his idiosyncratic style of later years. Big Town was, as succinctly describes it, a " dramatic series about a small town newspaper." Each story stars newspaper reporter Steve Wilson, a dashing, intrepid hero type who is determined to solve mysteries and bring justice whenever possible, just like newspaper reporters always were, apparently, back in the 1950's. First tale gives us a fellow who is taking out ads all over town claiming that he intends to blow up a bridge in the city; of course Wilson gets to the bottom of it and discovers a bigger plot...and yes, the cover scene is indeed represented in this installment. Story two is an account of a Newsboy Legion-type group of Big Town kids, who Wilson organizes to get them off the streets. Of course, they get mixed up in a crime wave of robberies pulled off by an organized gang, and help Wilson bring the mob to justice. Finally, story three is about a Houdini type who seals himself in a safe and gets submerged into the river- when they pull him up, he appears to have been shot in the head and leaves a letter blaming a rival for the crime. Wilson is of course skeptical, and sets out to find out the truth and save the man from the electric chair. Each vignette ends with Wilson slugging the perp in true two-fisted newsman fashion. There are also several of those public service announcement-type pages we all know and love, as well as a couple of fun facts pages. A typical DC comic of 1954, I suppose- but I was a little surprised at how content-heavy these stories were; even though they were only 7 pages long, I had to take my time and read the things- there was (of course) a ton of expository dialogue, people constantly explaining everything to each other (this is a John Broome story, after all), and caption after caption explaining the stuff that the characters didn't- but these were also full of action, with several plot twists taking place in each short story. These are, I would imagine, quite indicative of the sorts of tales that were told in the television series.

Devoid of the science-fiction or supernatural (superheroes were, with the exception of Superman and Batman, remember, still yet to make their comeback) trappings of the pre-Code era, I get the distinct impression that DC wasn't aiming these comics at the average 10-year-old reader. Even though they scan a lot like the 60's Silver Age DC stuff we all know and love, really, the dialogue and situations are of a more adult, that is to say grown-up, nature. Surprisingly so, at least to me. Readers today, especially those who are enthralled with noir-type comics such as Brubaker and Phillips' Criminal, might find something of interest in this series (at least, that's an assumption based on a very limited sample group). This was a nice and unexpected find; however, the mundanity of the subject matter ensures that I'm not especially moved to go out and seek any more. It is interesting to note, though, that it is a TV tie-in publication- even featuring a little ad for the show at the end of the last story (Thursday night, 9:30 Eastern, CBS in case you were wondering)...and that's something that's going on even today, what with DC's recent hardcover collection of Heroes (which is sitting on the stereo over there, daring me to unwrap it even now), as well as the Dark Horse Joss Whedon adaptations and others. The more things change, I guess, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Please allow me to get political, just for a few minutes.


Look, I think by now most of you have made up your mind about whether or not you're going to vote, or who you're going to vote for. I seriously doubt that I will be able to sway your opinion one way or the other at this point, if I ever could.

But, today is a very important day, not just in and of itself because of Election Day, but of its potential implications for the near and far I thought I'd say a few words, and you can take them as you will. Or leave them. Or whatever.

I voted early this morning for Barack Obama. You know, this guy:


There are a lot of people out there who are doubters, haters and skeptics, for various reasons. Maybe they've been disappointed too many times by corrupt and just plain stupid elected officials who have far too often taken the low road. Maybe they're just conditioned to expect the worst of people and always expect the worst possible thing to happen...if nothing else, so if something positive happens they'll be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps they're laboring under the delusion that the Republican party is the party of belief in God, and a vote for any Republican candidate is a vote for someone who is as religious as they perceive themselves to be, or want to be. There are some who just want to be contrary- they fancy themselves as iconoclasts, able to read between the lines and glean insight that seems to elude those not as smart or gifted as they perceive themselves to be.

And I'm here to tell you that I have, in years past, found myself in that skeptical role. I always held that all politicians are bought and sold, and beholden to special interests to some degree. That kept me from registering to vote when I was 18; In 1980 I knew Reagan was a pandering sham and a front for more shadowy interests, but Carter's performance in office was underwhelming, so registering was not a priority (C'mon, I was 20. Callow youth.) and by the time my conscience got to me it was too late to register. Finally, in 1984, I put my name down and cast my vote for Mondale (and my uncle at the time, who ran for sheriff and brought me the paperwork)...but America didn't agree with me. Perhaps it was all the right-wing writing I was reading in Rolling Stone and other publications, who knows, but I've always leaned liberal even though politicians of both stripes have consistently let me down- even Bill Clinton, who struck me as a smooth-talking snake-oil salesman type, but also who I thought had some good intentions, even though he didn't get a lot of cooperation in getting them carried out. The whole Monica thing didn't bother me in the slightest, not being one who is especially concerned about the moral foibles of our Commanders-in-Chiefs, as long as the decisions they make about other, non-personal-life matters are sound. I knew back in 2000 that we were in trouble when Bush Junior got himself placed in office, though- he just seemed like an idiot through and through, coasting along and getting where he was through connections and family, and wrapping himself in the flag with a Bible held in front of him to charm the God-botherers who voted for him in droves. Nothing I have seen in the last eight years has made me rethink this conviction.

Anyway, to rein this in a bit, I too have been very skeptical about politicians of both parties for a long time now. Which is why I am surprised to find myself liking Obama so much. I remember when I first heard of him, he sounded promising but a bit green, and I was surprised when he threw his hat in the ring as soon as he did. He may be as untested as they say (exactly how "tested" does one need to be? How "tested" was Dubya? It's all in who you surround yourself with), and may turn out to be scamming us all...and he may have some sort of baleful hidden agenda that will cause everyone who votes him into office to regret it for the rest of their lives. But I don't think so. He seems to be the polar opposite of Bush Jr.; a reasoner. A thinker. Someone who respects the opinions of others and encourages dissent in order to get insight, rather than someone who shoots from the hip with snap judgments, shooting first and asking questions later, afraid to appear tentative or indecisive lest he be perceived as weak. I, for one, want an intelligent man in that position in the White House.

He's going to have a tough row to hoe, no doubt about it. The mess that 8 years of Bush and Cheney (and yes, some of Clinton's mess too) is not going to be cleaned up quickly or easily. However, I believe that having Obama in office will open doors that are now shut to those who would be able to assist, and I believe that he will surround himself with people who are similarly inclined to thought and discourse. Not yes-men, but people who can provide important input. And the thought of having such people in these positions of influence fills me with a cautious optimism...which is a refreshing change from the resigned cynicism I've had before. And this is not to mention the mostly positive effect it will have on our relations with the rest of the world.

I don't know. Obama may get in over his head, and be a spectacular failure. And if that happens, we're all well and truly screwed. But I like our chances with a man like him in charge. I hope you agree.

("Rock the Vote" art ganked from Lethologica.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sending out Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings, whether he wants them or not, to the great STEVE DITKO, who observed his 81st today. Hasn't been all that long ago that I held forth on the Sturdy One, so I won't bore you again, but I didn't want to let the occasion pass without at least making note of it and taking the opportunity to post just a fraction of his work, including a knockout interior page below from one of his Warren stories- Eerie #10 to be precise. Hope he's had a great day, and is happy and loved. Really.