Friday, October 30, 2009

Another multi-cover Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting!



Yep, it's another of those big multi-cover birthday tributes, this time in honor of P. CRAIG RUSSELL, who turns 58 on this very day.

The first time I saw his art, early in his career on an Ant-Man tale in Marvel Feature #7, inked by mentor Dan Adkins and someone named Mark Kersey, I wasn't impressed. But then, a year or two later, I spied a copy of Amazing Adventures #28 on the spinner rack, and was surprised to see how much he'd progressed in the interim. And not only that, but I soon discovered that I loved the feature as well- War of the Worlds feat. Killraven, and began a fandom for both that has lasted to this day. It's been something to see how he's refined and developed his style over the years as well, from trying to play by the Marvel house rules to streamlining it, incorporating a myriad of influences. He's gone on to do a ton of work for a variety of publishers, including many adaptations of classic fairy tales and operas, and he brings the same verve and imagination to all of them. It's always a treat for me to see new artwork by Russell, one of my art heroes.

Here's his official site.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sign of the times.

You see it happening all the time these days; there's even a blog devoted to it. Newspapers and print magazines are dying out, or at least the more repetitive iterations of same-- a winnowing of the herd, if you will-- and the Internet, along with the economy, are mostly to blame, it seems.

So with this in mind, it's a bit sad- and yet it isn't- to see the announcement today that the Comics Journal will no longer be on its bi-monthly, or quarterly, or whatever it was on, publishing schedule. Instead, they will offer a twice-yearly "bigger and more elaborate" issue, and concentrate most of their efforts towards expanding and redesigning their website, and providing most of its content there, supposedly free to all. Click on the link above to get the skinny.

Like Alan David Doane said this morning, back in the day- we're talking late 70s and into the 80s- the Journal was a hell of a thing, comparable mostly to the nothing-is-sacred attitude of rock's CREEM magazine than anything else, always striving to point out work that was better than the norm, and comparing/contrasting that work to the current output of the major companies of the day. While sometimes shots were taken that were uncalled for (the slagging of Don Heck's reputation comes to mind), at least they had opinions, and often passionate ones at that. Also, for my money, TCJ featured some of the best interviews I have ever read (and I'm not always crazy about interviews), and always had top notch art, even the filler illos in the letters page, some of which were done by the Hernandez Bros. early on, pre-Love & Rockets.

Ad now, I begin a rambling and personal account of my history with the Journal. You may skip ahead one paragraph if you don't care.

After buying an issue here and there via mail order or from my friend Dave Puckett (probably the first place I ever saw a copy), I eventually broke down and subscribed, and did so for many years. The cover of the earliest issue I own now is posted above. Finally, sometime in the mid-late '90s, turned off by the increasingly sour, dismissive and cynical tone that had begun to really become noticeable in practically everything that was written (It was always that way to an extent, but it had gotten excessively so by then, in my opinion), as well as an ever-increasing price point combined with the ever-crappier gray newsprint stock paper that the interiors were printed on...well, I stopped buying. By then, I had stopped subscribing (my comics shop gave discounts for holds customers then, and I figured I was breaking even), but it was five or six bucks that I could spend elsewhere, so I bade farewell to the Journal, thinking I'd pick up an issue when I could afford it and if someone I was interested in was featured. And sure enough, I did that for a while. But eventually, the Interweb came along, as did Fantagraphics' web site, and hey! They reprinted stuff from the Journal right there on their site! Plus, they had a cool news column that could actually report current comics news (a longtime bugaboo with the print edition)! And hey! When I got started blogging, I even got mentioned in that column a couple of times! (A far cry from today, where I do not exist as far as Deppey is concerned) And eventually, a lot of outstanding comics-related content became available to all via the rise of the Comics Blogosphere, much of it written by people who had read and were influenced by TCJ itself. So the upshot is that it's been quite some time since I actually purchased a physical copy, this one was my last, I believe...and I can't believe I'm the only one.

So this is a natural and inevitable progression, I believe, and while I, who will always have an nostalgic attachment to paper (not only comics and magazines, but album covers as well), still must acknowledge the necessity of this move. I wish them the best of luck- even though I gripe about them, I can't imagine the world of comics without Groth and the Journal to comment on it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to Me.



Yes, 'twas on this very day, seven years ago, that I decided to start writing stuff on the Internet for public consumption. Even though I've slowed down a lot (or perhaps spread myself a bit thin) over the last few years, I have no intention of stopping completely anytime soon, and as always, I appreciate each and every one of those of you who stop by and read, no matter how infrequently I post. You're all aces in my book.

And appropriately enough, this is my 100th post of 2009! Time was, I had 100 by April.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you.

It was New Years' Day, 1965. I was five years old. I watched Soupy Sales's program that day, and Soupy told me to remove all the "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" out of my parents' wallets and mail them to him. Of course, I did so. I got a severe beating (spent over a week in the hospital, and I still walk kinda funny to this day), my parents sued, lost their case, and lost their house due to all the legal bills. As we struggled to get our lives back in order thanks to Sales' irresponsible prank, we cursed his name every day and I never ever watched any Soupy Sales show again.

And of course, this is bullshit. That said, I think Soupy Sales would appreciate the joke.

Actually, truth be told, I never really paid a lot of attention to the Soupster on TV back in the early '60s. I vaguely remember the version of the show that ABC aired around 1965 or so, which I might have viewed once or twice (probably not on New Years', though) and he was a constant guest-star presence on shows (The Flintstones, even!) that I did watch as that decade went on, continuing in the '70s, where he always seemed to be popping up on game shows and stuff like Love American Style. Still, he was a definite part of the cultural zeitgeist, and everybody knew who the heck he was.

So, it's with a little bit of sadness that I see where he has passed on- while he wasn't as "special" to me as he was to some, He was a small part of my rapidly-fading childhood memories- heck, he even appeared as a panelist on Match Game- and thus will be missed.

The quote above was the only quote I could find attributed to him; I'm sure that better can be found with enough digging, so by all means keep looking!

Another Soupy-related side note- his sons, Hunt and Tony, pursued a career as professional musicians and played on a lot of music that I have bought and listened to- with Todd Rundgren on his first couple of solo albums, on through a short stint in Paris, the post-Fleetwood Mac group with Bob Welch, as well as David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the late '70s, on some of the best albums by either. They reunited with Bowie in his late '80s Tin Machine group project as well.

RIP, Soupy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE.

Time once more for a way overdue CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, in which I opine in shortish fashion about comics that I have bought and/or received and/or read in the interval between October 1st and 15th, 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.

DETECTIVE COMICS #857: This textbook example of the power of art with vision and imagination to enhance and enliven otherwise ordinary scripts continues in full force here; while Rucka's story is no great shakes, J.H. Williams III makes it look real purty. And even though this particular storyline is run of the mill, his Batwoman isn't; I like the prickly-yet-caring personality she's shown so far, and the back-and-forth between her and her Alfred-figure military dad is intriguing. There's also a mildly eyebrow-lifting reveal at the end that piques my interest as well. So far, so good. The Question backup, not so much. It's steadfastly bland, and sure, I liked Renee Montoya from Gotham Central and other Rucka Bat-stories as much as anyone, but I'll continue to say it- jerry-rigging her into the Question persona was not a good idea, and if this is the best that can be done with her/it, then maybe we should just retire her/it. A-

HELLBLAZER #259:
Two things- Simon Bisley art (and I don't always say that- sometimes he gets carried away with the absurdity and distortion, and not always in a good way) and the huh-what? re-introduction of Kathy George from Milligan's fan-favorite Shade- lift this up a notch from what we've been getting previously. I am happy that his current JCH storyline is going in unpredictable directions, but I can't help but feel like he's winging it now, as it seems like it should have wrapped two issues ago. B+

HEROGASM #5: The "Supies", a caped-set awards show notion that Adam Warren beat Garth to in Empowered months ago, provides the background for more extrapolation and enhancment of what he had already set in motion in The Boys. Surprising, perhaps: a bit of sympathy for the Homelander? Not so surprising: more "cum-sponge" jokes. Plus, Hughie sure is taking a long time to realize he's been buggered. As always, if you like the main title, you will need to be keeping up with this as well. B+

IMMORTAL WEAPONS #3:
So far, this series has been very good, shining a spotlight on the warriors that Danny Rand brought back with him from the Tournament at the Heart of Heaven waaay back in his most recent series...but this issue is the best so far, and somewhat surprisingly it deals with the one Weapon who has had the least exposure, the Chinese folk hero-style Dog Brother. DB is nowhere to be found in this case, though, except in stories told by one street urchin to another, and it's their saga that provides most of the story, as well as a poignant ending that ties it all together in great, affecting fashion. Artist Tim Green, who we had seen doing a flashback story in the Immortal Iron Fist series, illustrates this with nuance skill in his finely-detailed style. The backup story continues the Iron Fist tale that I suspect was slated for his "on hiatus" title, and is interesting enough; it sports a new artist, Hatuey Diaz with an odd drawing style that reminds me a bit of what Faryl Dalyrmple did on Omega the Unknown a while back. A

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #135:
Amadeus Cho's turn again, as his investigation into his past gets center stage once more in alternating fashion. This one's a labored old-time movie serial-style semi-farce that at least boasts a cool character name with Captain Japanazi and a decent enough reveal at the end, plus Rodney Buchemi's art works well enough...so it gets by. The Thorcules saga is better so far, though. B+

MADAME XANADU #15: Finale of the three-parter which has turned out to be a treat for not only fans of Madame X but those who miss Sandman Mystery Theatre as well. Even though this sometimes looked rushed, it was a huge treat to see the Kaluta art on interiors as well as exteriors; between this and Starstruck, we haven't seen this much MwK in our four color funnybooks since the old DC ERB days. B+

MARVEL DIVAS #3: As smartly illustrated, with well-done dramatics and well-placed levity in just the right proportion. Interesting cliffhanger this time out, considering the history between Patsy and Daimon Hellstorm, who, between Ghost Riders and this, has rarely, if ever, had it better (at least appearances-wise) in print before. Whoever commissioned that sex-kitten cover (#1's, of course) from Scott Campbell should be smacked in the back of the head. A

MODELS, INC. #2: On the other hand, this one disappoints just a bit, especially when compared to its sister publication cited above; it's soap-opera murder mystery plot is fine, and the character interaction works well enough, I suppose, but there's a sort of joylessness about this, rote-ness if you will, and that kinda sucks the fun out of it. Perhaps if the artist was a bit better at drawing attractive comic-book females, who knows. The intro page was cute. C+

PLANETARY #27: Yeah I read this early; the height of irony for such an overdue title if I do say so myself. I seem to recall reviewing the previous couple of issues quite favorably about, what was it, 2006?- but this one fails to inspire similar enthusiasm simply because it's fairly obvious that this was tossed out in a "Oh, all right, HERE" fashion. I remember Ellis having to do this sort of thing once before, when he was faced with having to write the (somewhat unexpected, if I read the letters page correctly) final issue of Hellstorm after having just launched what was intended to be a multi-issue epic...and he did it in grimly amusing fashion, having Daimon pop in on the characters that he was going to be in conflict with, and just ruthlessly destroying them, or at least neutering the threat they posed. I hadn't ever seen anything handled like that before in comics, and it has stuck with me to this day. This time, Ellis had a little more warning, and therefore chose to concentrate on one central part of the vast tapestry he spent all that time establishing...and while the inclination is to want more, I suppose he was being just as ruthless by pretty much ignoring others to clear up what happened to the missing member of the Planetary team at the expense of everything else. Of course, this all flows along smoothly and works OK as a story; Ellis being Ellis, we get the usual hosts of ideas cribbed from Metafilter and Boing Boing, all described to the reader as tersely as possible. And befitting the epilogue that this is, each character gets a chance to do something one last time, be it expository (Drums- his exchanges with Snow were always good for a chuckle) in nature or physical (Jakita, of course), it works within that "here we go again, one more time" framework. Ellis is but one half the equation, though- Cassaday really grew up in front of our eyes on this book (and elsewhere, X-books, what have you, I know), and his work, far more assured and expressive of course than at the beginning, is really what gets the whole across. In the hands of lesser artists, like the ones Ellis has laboring for him under a lot of his other titles, this would be an unpleasant slog...but Cassaday makes it work and work well, and neutralizes somewhat Ellis' sour tone. Planetary sure morphed into something unforeseen before it was done, and I'm not always sure that that was a good thing, but overall it was a diverting read and I'm glad I was along for the ride. A-

POWER GIRL #5: Three hot alien chicas crashland on Earth, one hot dude follows in pursuit. PG investigates, meets dude. Progresses pretty much how you think it will, but it plays to Amanda Connor's considerable strengths, and is therefore still worth your time. B+

THUNDERBOLTS #136:
Diggle, you are forgiven. Now, let's see where we go from here. B+

UNDERGROUND #1:
I reviewed this a month or so ago from an advance PDF, and here it is again in case you didn't read it then.

X-MEN vs. AGENTS OF ATLAS #1: I understand, this is just a stab at expanding the brand awareness of the struggling Agents of Atlas ongoing, now on a hiatus of some sort. That's all very well and good, and I suppose it's as good a way as any to indoctrinate the heathen as to the wonderful exploits of the Agents, who are done very well as always. Problem is, it's not just an AoA story, and no matter how well Parker writes them, I simply can't care less about whatever permutation of the X-Men we're being given...that ship sailed for me long ago, and that tempers my enjoyment of this marriage of convenience just a bit, even though both Carlos Pagulyan and especially Chris Samnee, who really should have a regular gig by now, provide very good visuals. I'll keep buying, because I am invested in the Agents enough to want to see where Parker is taking them, and yes, because Venus (even this version) is in it. The things we do for love sometimes. B-

Friday, October 16, 2009

RIP George Tuska.



Above, four pages (actually, the last four- apologies if I've spoiled a FORTY YEAR OLD COMIC STORY) from Iron Man #11, cover dated March of 1969, which featured the resolution of a two-part thriller that pitted the Armored Avenger against the Mandarin yet again. Script by the great Archie Goodwin, inks by the great Johnny Craig...and pencil art by the late GEORGE TUSKA, who has died at the age of 93, according to various sources around the Web. These four pages illustrate what I thought Tuska did best, at least in my experience with his work- dynamic action, with expressive faces and gestures, and a grounded, not too flashy, but still visually unique style. Love panels 2 & 3 of that first page.

Personal reminisce department: This Iron Man run was the first time I remember being impressed by his art- I remember a short fill-in stint on Avengers earlier in 1968, and perhaps he had work in one of the Warren magazines as well, I'm not sure. He wasn't a favorite of mine, sorry to say, although I was never unhappy to see his art in any comic I chose to take home. I remember sitting in the hairdressers', reading the comic above while waiting impatiently for my Mom to get her hair done...I had probably just turned, or was soon to turn, nine years old at the time. For some reason, I kinda lost interest in Iron Man comics by the end of the year; I think I only bought three more issues. Not Tuska's fault, though. He went on to do many more issues of Iron Man, as well as the early issues of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire and many other jobs for both Marvel and DC. It wasn't until just recently that I became aware of his pre-60's Marvel efforts; what I've seen looked very good- no better than many of his peers at EC and places like that, but certainly better than the run of the mill back then. The style that I became familiar with as a kid didn't develop until much later.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I have to say about the guy. He was a hell of an artist. Don't know what Marvel would have done without him.

ETA: Evan Dorkin has an amusing, yet completely appropriate obit up in which he brings up a couple of points I meant to make but as so often is the case forgot until I read it in posts by better writers- Tuska's habit (in his 60's-70's work, anyway) of drawing big teeth on most of his characters, as well as his foreshortening tendencies, especially when drawing limbs (or lack thereof).

Others: Tom Spurgeon, Mark Evanier. And in this case, anyway, the Onion A.V. Club is full of shit.

Nice cover.



Spied this somewhere, probably CBR, the other day, and was quite taken with the pose and the somewhat extreme closeup point of view. Nicely iconic, and while yes, it doesn't give the prospective buyer any indication of what awaits within, it is certainly eye-catching, no pun intended- and isn't that what a good cover does? I assume this is by intriguing newcomer Lee Garbett, probably inked by Trevor Scott and Photoshopped by goodness knows. Am I gonna buy? Nah- the recent crop of Bat-books has been a huge disappointment to me, Detective excepted, and I've yet to see anything, besides the likable decision to resurrect Stephanie Brown in the lead and the aforementioned showcase for Garbett's pencil art, that would cause me to believe that I would feel any differently about it.

But this piece? I like. For what it's worth. Look! A preview!

ETA: My friends in the comments inform me that the artist of this here cover is none other than good ol' Phil Noto, something I figure I could have twigged on to if I'd only bothered to do a little not-so-creative Googling. Well done, Mr. Noto! Well done, and many thanks, friend commenters!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Grow old along with me.


A posthumous BSBdG today for JOHN WINSTON ONO LENNON, who would have been 69 today if not for, well, you know.

From 2005, here's a list of favorite solo Lennon tracks. I should probably revise it someday.

Pic courtesy of the fab and gear Beatle Photo Blog.

誕生日おめでとう!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sight unseen.



Apropos of nothing, and mostly because I want to get something up here, I just wanted to state for the record that I like this eye-grabbing cover, which wraps itself around the latest Doug Moench-Kelley Jones Batman opus, entitled Batman Unseen...although I think there is some confusion about whether it's supposed to be Batman: Unseen or Batman: The Unseen. Regardless, this is a damn exciting Kelley Jones illo, I do believe- of course, he's always been capable of providing dynamic images in his rubbery post-Wrightson/post-"Ghastly" Graham Ingels/post-Frazetta fashion, and he once more delivers the good here as we see Bats swooping down on a, well, an unseen foe, escorted by a remarkably organized bat posse. Now, I bought (and still own) almost all of their early-mid 90's collaboration on the Batman proper title, and mostly enjoyed them all; Jones' exaggerations would often liven up some awfully staid, but still readable, Moench scripts. That said, I remember feeling that the duo had peaked towards the end of that run, and nothing I've seen since has caused me to think any differently...so I probably won't be buying this. But I do like this cover, and wanted to share.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Day is Done.



As a fan of the band and its various configurations, I subscribe to the StrawbsWeb news email feed...and the latest one, which I got yesterday, bore some sad news: Robert Kirby (pictured above), who did string and wind arrangements for a lot of musicians most notably in the 70's but right up till today, died last Saturday.

His biggest claim to fame came, I suppose, as the arranger for Nick Drake's first two albums (interview here), but his name first came to my attention with a credit on Strawbs member David Cousins' first solo album, Two Weeks Last Summer, back in 1972. I think I first acquired my copy around 1978 or so, it was not released officially in the US, and mine was a Canadian import. As a budding Strawb fan (I had just purchased the wonderful Ghosts album not long before), I loved the album...and one cut in particular, credited to "Robert Kirby's Wind", stood out. Titled "That's the Way it Ends (Including the World)", it featured a gorgeous melody on the intro, a prim, melancholy arrangement made up of oboes, flutes and clarinets, with Cousins accompanying himself on piano on the second part of the track. Here's an interview with him dealing with his Strawbs work. I kept seeing his name pop up here and there on albums I'd pick up, and eventually (even though I had owned Pink Moon on vinyl a couple of years previous) I obtained the CD reissues of Nick Drake's records and discovered the excellent work he brought to them as well. Probably the first place I ever saw his name in the credits was as choir arranger and conductor for two tracks on Elton John's Madman Across the Water album, which I first heard in 1974.

An obscure sort of figure, unless you're an ardent British folk/rock fan, but a part of my musical upbringing just the same, and I salute him for what he contributed, as well as hope he rests in peace.

Monday, October 05, 2009

CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together once more for CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, in which I opine in shortish fashion about comics that I have bought and/or received and/or read in the interval between September 7 and 30th, 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.

AGENTS OF ATLAS #10,11
: Final issues (well, final for now, or so we're being told) are rarely satisfying affairs; usually the writer gets the bad news just as he's embarked on a long saga of some sort or another, and then is forced to truncate and edit and wrap up in hurried fashion, and the results usually are obvious on the page. That's not quite the case here; the whole Suwan vs. Jimmy Woo thing probably didn't have the legs (the story, not Dave Johnson's Suwan on the cover- yowza!) to go more than two or three chapters anyway before it would have been necessary to move on. Jeff Parker does a typically satisfying job of giving all the characters room to strut their stuff, and even gets to point a couple in a potentially interesting new direction (M-13's newly discovered scientist/inventor; another Venus, still sadly non-blonde but apparently tied in with the pantheon that Van Lente and Pak are exploring and hey-! Who's going to be appearing in Incredible Hercules now for a while? Why, the Agents!) before all is done. A trio of not-flashy but very good artists (Gabe Hardman- apparently good to find in this case, ha ha-, Dan Panosian and the underappreciated Paul Rivoche) maintain a nice consistency and continuity in their styles, so that the change doesn't detract from the narrative. Said it before, and will say it again; if you haven't been keeping up with this, you're missing out and hopefully you'll get another chance down the road. It's really the best thing of this kind that Marvel's put out since the long-ago Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. days. Both issues: A-

BATMAN AND ROBIN #4:
I signed on for Morrison and Quitely, and to be frank, Moz hasn't made this interesting enough for me to want to stick around for long. A new Red Hood, Grant? Really? This is what you want to give us? Do you even care anymore? Well, maybe I'll stick around for Cam Stewart's turn anyway. New artist Philip Tam is game, and acquits himself well, but he just doesn't have the range and scope his predecessor did. If that's unfair, well, such is life. B

BEASTS OF BURDEN #1: Well worth your time for Jill Thompson's stunning watercolor illustration work, but while Evan Dorkin's story is pleasingly quirky with its aggregate demon frogs and whatnot, a little more effort to let us know which talking dog and talking cat was which and why we should care if one goes missing or meets a horrible fate would have made this work a lot better. Yeah, I know, you could go to Dark Horse's website and re-read past installments in this series, which have seen print in their intermittent hardcover Books of... series, but I'm lazy sometimes. That said, this is still a promising series and I remain interested in where it's going. A-

THE BOYS #34: Well, for those who love seeing one-dimensional Nazi-supervillains getting the living shit beaten out of them, this is one of the best comics of the year. Fortunately, for those of us who are invested in the characters and want to find out where this is going, Garth has not forgotten us and moves things along a bit as well. Although I've never been the biggest Darick Robertson fan out there, I think he's fricking Jack Kirby compared to Carlos Esquerra, who has pinch-hit on Vertigo titles that Ennis has written before so I can assume he got the gig through connections. He's far from incompetent, but his grubby style just doesn't grab me. An old favorite character comes back in this one, and for that I bump it up a half letter grade. B+

BPRD: 1947 #3: As they so often do in B.P.R.D. land, things get kinda out of hand as disaster strikes the ad-hoc team that Professor Bruttenholm assembled to check out the vampiric activity in the Old Dark Chateau. Dysart's dialogue and pace is once again outstanding, and the Moon-Ba team can seemingly do pretty much anything these days, and do it in excellent fashion. A-

CAT BURGLAR BLACK: Another Richard Sala opus that is gorgeously illustrated as usual, but is also strictly by the Established Standard Sala Template. I'm beginning to think that if you've read one Sala story, you've read 'em all, and that's a pity. Handsomely presented, and perhaps a good place to start if you're curious about his oeuvre, but that's where my recommendation stops. B+

DOMINIC FORTUNE #2: I believe returning to this character has got Chaykin flexing muscles that he hasn't used in quite some time now, perhaps not since Blackhawk; this is full of snappy patter and has a definite mature tone, even though it has singing, boozing little people and the main badguy and his temptress squeeze remind me more than a little of Daddy Warbucks and his ward Annie. Sure, his Angel and the Ape pushed a lot of the same buttons, but that came across as outright farce, and this hasn't...yet. Chaykin the artist is also rising to the occasion, eschewing a lot of the tricky layout and typography that worked so well in American: Flagg! and Time Squared, but kinda got in the way of the storytelling in such later work as Challengers of the Unknown. So far, I like. A-

FABLES #88: Well, we always knew that Frau Totenkinder was capable of more than we have previously seen, and now it becomes apparent that we will see even more as she preps for an apparent throwdown with the evil forces that besiege all. Said forces will surely now number among them the Baba Yaga, who's a busy old biddy these days between here and Hellboy, in their ranks. That's pretty much the big reveal (cover image notwithstanding) in this typically well-done chapter, and it's nice to see Steve Leialoha (still subsuming his solo style) back on inks, even if it's partially so. B+

GHOST RIDER: HEAVEN'S ON FIRE #'s 1, 2: In which we see the return of characters that Warren Ellis gave us oh so long ago in his revamp of the by-then somewhat ludicrous Son of Satan, including girlfriend Jaine Cutter. I was a big fan of Ellis' short stint on that long-ago-cancelled title, consider it some of his best work even if he doesn't, and it's great to see that Jason Aaron gets what made them special, even if he's conspired with the artist to radically change his appearance, even making a clever joke about it as they go along. The new look, shaved head and pointy goatee, works just fine, but I think Daimon is a bit more menacing as a long-haired, stubble-bearded biker-type. That's just me. Anyway, this revival is part of an ongoing storyline that apparently began in the Rider's proper title, or a previous miniseries, or something. I'm too lazy to do the research, sorry, and it's not really necessary towards understanding what's going on. It's got something to do with the search for this kid who's supposed to be the Antichrist, on the run from angelic assassins (hey, just like Ellis' War Between Heaven and Hell in Hellstorm!) and it's wisely handled like a QT-type imitation grindhouse flick, with lots of action and very little pretension. Both issues: A

HELLBOY: THE WILD HUNT #6: OK, as if Mignola didn't set enough plates spinning in the first five issues, we now get a new plate: Arthurian legends. Didn't really see that coming, but hey, it works just fine just the same. Another outstanding chapter of the ongoing collaboration between Mignola and artist Duncan Fregredo, who really is the best non-MM artist this series has seen yet, no offense to Richard Corben. A

INCOGNITO #6:
OK, OK, it wasn't exactly like Sleeper, but it was mighty damn close. Anyway, things get revealed and resolved, and we get set up for a return to this world and these characters when and if the creators choose to do so- and that's a very good thing, especially when one of the creators is Sean Phillips, at the top of his game. I wasn't exactly blown away by this; it's whole storyline was just a tad mundane (by design, I'd imagine, what with all the pulp magazine callbacks in the lead as well as the back), but no less enjoyable for it. A-

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #134: Herc's turn again, and this whole Thorcules saga remains good fun, with lots of lighthearted adventure, some of it PG-13 in nature. Reilly Brown and Nelson Castro's art fits the whole Tolkien-by-way-of-Kurtzman vibe very well, gving us a good approximation of the sort of art this kind of Gods-v.-Elves fantasy material needs. Thor-, I mean Hercules remains one of the best books on the stands right now. A-

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #17: Fraction's "Tony Stark on the run" script remains gripping, even occasionally touching- even in the face of some awfully inconsistent art by Salvator Larocca. Anybody that can get me to follow an Iron Man book as long as I have this one must be doing something right, I figure! B+

LOVE & ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #2:
Jaime plays fast and loose with "fantasy" and "reality" and gives us some outstanding slam-bang superhero action as he does so, while Gilbert indulges his inner David Lynch on a couple of surreal (one overtly so) stories that tried my patience. If you're a Beto fan, you might feel differently, but so far I don't think he's holding up his end of this, the latest and most expensive iteration of this long running series...which makes me feel like I'm not quite getting my money's worth. Oh well, I'm enough of a Jamie admirer to want to spend it anyway, but still... B+

THE MIGHTY #'s 7,8: Whoops, I think I forgot to write about this last time out, so I will redress that now. Really don't have much more to add to what I've already written; this under-the-radar title is really a very good take on the suddenly-popular "What if Superman wasn't so benign" concept that's making the rounds these days, building credible suspense and identification as we follow Bad Superman's human liaison Gabriel Cole as he seeks to get to the bottom of what's going on. Also, can't say enough about how well artist Chris Samnee has taken over for original illustrator Pete Snejbjerg, without missing a beat. I don't know how much longer this has to go; sales are abysmal and while I thought it was originally solicited as a limited series, it seems to be set up as an ongoing. Hope writers Tomasi and Champagne get to wind it up before the axe falls...and you might oughtta get the floppies because there sure as hell is no guarantee of a collection. A-

STRANGE TALES #1: DC had its World's Funnest and Bizarro Comics, and now Marvel joins in on the "Hey, let's curry some geek favour by letting some indie cartoonists play with our characters" bandwagon with this ad hoc collection of stuff, some of which seems to have been lying around forever, like Peter Bagge's sporadically amusing Hulk that was announced so long ago. This one peaks early, with Paul Pope's fun and clever Inhumans story, in which they try and try to feed Lockjaw some gourmet dog food, only to get interrupted with world-shaking crises; right now everything Pope does is excellent, it seems. Most of these are played for laughs- I mean, if you have Jason, Nick Gurewitch or Johnny Ryan doing Spidey, Wolverine, the Hulk and the Punisher, you don't really expect serious drama, let's face it. And therein lies the rub- each contributor does exactly what one would expect them to do, and meets expectations- and while I can't speak for everyone, I myself would kinda like to see expectations EXceeded once in a while. Once the novelty of seeing, say, Molly Crabapple drawing a She-Hulk story wears off, what you have left is curiosity value, nothing more...and these days, I kinda want a bit more for my four dollars. Still, on its own terms and expectations aside, if you like seeing talented creators shooting fish in a barrel by making fun of eminently mockable licensed properties, well, look no further. B+

THUNDERBOLTS #135: Diggle's so good at this high-tech action-thriller spy stuff that it doesn't get diluted by all the superheroics, and despite my disappointment in the Black Widow-related reveal, I am still very interested in where this is going. And on top of that, Diggle told me on Twitter a few days ago to "Wait till I read #136", which now has me wondering what that will be all about. Guess we will see what we will see! B+

WITCHFINDER: IN THE SERVICE OF ANGELS #3: After the genuine creeps delivered last issue, this one's a bit of a step back, but that doesn't mean it's not worth your time. Seems that much of what's been going on can be laid at the feet of Egyptian cultists...an weird and interesting wrinkle, the introduction of which seems to be a type of plot twist that Mike's been indulging himself a lot in lately. I'm most impressed with Ben Stenbeck's art; it evokes dread and mood very successfully, and resembles Mignola's in a very satisfying way- not imitative, just evocative. A-



Oy, I'm so behind. I have last Friday's new box of comics, including Thunderbolts #136 (a plot twist I am excited about, for sure! All is forgiven for now, Diggle) and the final issue of Wednesday Comics, which I plan to look at in its entirety in a separate post later on (heck, you could probably just go back and look at the first post I did on the subject; my opinions didn't change that much) patiently awaiting me to finish reading and begin writing.

This and that, and the Always Popular Other Thing.

I am about to resume blogging; just wanted to let you know. Review post coming later tonight, after I've reread one of the books in question- I've almost forgotten what was in it! Hardly a ringing endorsement, I know...and no, I won't tell you which one it was. Anyway, later tonight.

Today would have been the 128th birthday of former U.S. President Chester Alan Arthur, did you know that? Neither did I, until this morning.
And now, you know.

I did begin what looks like it will be a 3-part look at the Thriller comic over at Trouble With Comics...I don't know if it will be any more or less revelatory than the website, but check it out anyway!