Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Okay, when life gives you lemons, as the saying goes, make lemon pie. Or something like that.

That redoubtable Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon, recently ran another installment of his ongoing "Five for Friday" series, and entries were accepted until Monday since it was posted late. The theme: "Name Five Comics You Were Sad to See Go Away". Seeing my opportunity, I pounced and fired off an email that listed five comics that got cancelled out from under me as I was enjoying them, and if it seemed a bit overfamiliar, it was just because I am constantly writing about them anyway. At any rate, when I checked the site on Monday, like a little kid on Christmas morning, I was crestfallen to discover that my little email was not included! Why, I cannot say...but I didn't want to see it go to waste, so I'll post it here, along with thumbnails of the final issue of each title.

And it went like this...

Funny thing, cancellation of a comics series; when I was a kid growing up, it devastated me whenever a title I liked would get canned, and often I went months without knowing that it had indeed been shitcanned- since there was no interwub or even Wizard magazine to let us know! Sometimes the editor knew in advance and could post a note in the letters page, but that was all the warning we got. As I grew older, and kept on getting attached to obscure, quirky series that never acheived more than a cult status, I got kinda jaded to the whole phenomenon, and came to expect it. I would then be pleasantly surprised when a title lasted, say, nine issues. Now, they come, they go, I shrug and think "Less to spend".

But anyway, my list.

1. The Phantom Stranger: One of the first series that got axed while I was actively enjoying and reading it. I didn't know quite what to think!

2. Thriller. Actually, it made me sadder when Fleming and Von Eeden left the book after #7- by the time the axe fell it was a mercy killing.

3. Chase. Another book that went longer than I expected, but not long enough. (Okay, I cheated-Chase #1,000,000 (#10) was actually the last issue, but #9 was the last issue proper that featured Miz Cameron.)

4. The Shadow (80's) by Helfer and Baker. Especially since it got topped mid-story!

5. Starstruck. Didn't want all of them to be DC books- this one was published by Heavy Metal, Marvel, Epic, and Dark Horse over the 80s and early 90s. I wanted more.

Hon. mentions: Major Bummer, the Thomas/Adams X-Men (actually the first series to get cancelled as I was collecting it), Amazing Adventures feat. Killraven (knew that was coming, didn't ya), Sleeper, Gemini Blood, Hellstorm: Prince of Lies, Timespirits.

More if I think of them...!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Had lunch with the in-laws yesterday, and visited Mrs. B's youngest sister and her husband in Sweeden. No, that's not misspelled and no, it's not the country. Well, it is IN the country- Sweeden is a tiny little community some twenty miles northwest of my own little community. Anyways, back to the matter at hand: we stopped at the local Family Dollar store, and as I browsed around my eyes lit upon what you see above. Apparently Marvel has been releasing these "Dollar Digests" since last year, but this is the first time I've seen them. Each of these features the first three issues of each title, and in the case of the Spider-Man collection, the legendary Amazing Fantasy #15 as well, in black and white. I couldn't resist the opportunity to get this Lee/Kirby/Ditko goodness for a buck apiece, and sure enough they were mighty good reading. Lee really hadn't gotten into a groove yet, and a lot of the dialogue really scans awkward and flat, but this is Ditko and Kirby at the top of their games, giving us great action all the way through. The stories all seem to be intact and unedited, and even contain pinup pages- in the case of the Spidey omnibus, it even reprints the full-page explanation of why there isn't a letters page in #2, with what seems to be a Kirby Spidey illo, and a promise that letters will appear beginning in #3.

By doing a little research, i.e. searching the Midtown Comics website, I see that there is another Spider-Man collection available, as well as an X-Men and Hulk. Might have to keep an eye out for them next time I'm wandering around the Dollar Store/Family Dollar- I mean, geez- they are in B&W, and are kinda small, but it's a triple shot of seminal Marvel for one whole dollar and a hell of a fun read. A win-win situation if ever I saw one!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. I Netflixed Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and watched it this morning. And, I was mostly underwhelmed. But, I expected no more or less, so I guess it's a case of no harm, no foul.

Basically, this is a dumbed-down and sanitized version of the first Millar/Hitch/Neary Ultimates series, poorly animated in the awkward, semi-fluid musclebound style of the 90's-era X-Men and Spider-Man Saturday morning cartoons, and completely lacking two of the key components of its comics inspiration- the widescreen splendor (even though it is available in widescreen, which isn't used to any sort of advantage) of Hitch & Neary's art and the snarkiness and down-to-earth nature of Millar's scripts. Don't be fooled by the packaging, which uses Hitch and Neary art. Makes one wonder why they named it "Ultimate" Avengers, since it's closer in spirit to the mainstream Marvel version of the Avengers. Yeah, I know, the infidels, the great unwashed non-comics-buying people of the world out there don't know or care about the difference, but this would appear to be a production by fanmen for other fanmen, so what gives? Another annoyance: Hank Pym is an even bigger prick than he is in the comics- whiny, jealous, and egotistical. And you know this old Giant-Man fan from way back just loved that. The voice work is fair-to-middling: Olivia D'Abo is good, speaking with a Russian accent as the Black Widow (more on her later), and voiceover vet Grey DeLisle is fine as the Wasp. The actor for Tony Stark does a good job as well. But they totally botch Thor, having him speak in an echo-laden, booming voice that is supposed to suggest his godhood, I guess, but the voice actor doing the speaking doesn't understand that he needs to underplay, and the effect is ridiculous. Thor has no beard here, either, making him come across like Val Hallen of the Justice Friends.

On the plus side, even though it was a Cliff's Notes script it moved along at a decent clip, and was seldom boring. The soap operatics didn't grate, and the scenes in which Captain America reconnects with his life were done with a minimum of schmaltz. Out of all these characters, I liked they way they adapted the Black Widow best- along with her voice work, she was portrayed as a super-capable, swift-and-deadly agent and second to Nick Fury, and I was impressed. If only the rest of the cast had been handled as well, this might have been a LOT better.

Even though that is almost two hours of my life I'll never get back, I couldn't bring myself to hate this cartoon. I couldn't bring myself to like it all that much
either. Compared to the vastly superior Justice League Unlimited, this falls way short of the mark. Looking at some of the bonus features, I watched a short preview of the sequel, already in production- it involves the Black Panther in Wakanda, and looks livelier, from what they showed, mostly animated production pencil drawings. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're not picky about your animation- but while I found something to like, I don't recommend.

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Sorry, guys. C+
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Waaaay back in the dim and distant days of 2002, I posted a list of vinyl long players that I liked that were unavailable on CD. Here and here are follow-up posts, adding three more. Out of that list, four have been released on compact disc: Neil Young's glum masterpiece On the Beach, Maria Muldaur's retro-folk/jazz exercise Sweet Harmony, David Cousins' mid-70's solo turn Two Weeks Last Summer, and the Pentangle's tuneful Britfolk swan song Solomon's Seal. I am happy to announce that one more has been added to that number: (and I'm sure you've guessed what it is by the honkin' big picture above) Mirror by Graham Central Station. Cut-and-pasted from that long-ago post, with minimal editing:

Larry Graham, the G of CS, was Sly's bass player until he got fed up with Sly's BS and started his own group. This was their 3rd or 4th release, I forget how many exactly. Frankly, except for about 2 or 3 songs per album, most of the Graham Central Station records are boring affairs, but this one boasts four stellar tracks out of eight and has garnered itself a place in the Johnny Bacardi Hall of Fame for Great Tuneage. The lead track (cleverly titled "Entrow") features marching band percussion, which would have caused a lot of high school band drum sections to wet themselves if they'd actually bought the frigging record. "Love (Covers A Multitude of Sins)" is a smooth, soulful track with sprightly strings and great backing vocals. I Got A Reason swipes the actual melody of the old Folger's coffee commercials (if you've heard them you know what I mean, it was set to a coffee pot percolating) but isn't stupid. Graham must have hurt himself hitting the high note at the end; it's an amazing thing to hear. Finally, the last cut, an elegy for his father called Forever is a bit overlong but has a gorgeous group vocal melody which is mirrored (if you'll excuse the expression) by a squiggling synth line, at least 4 years before they became annoying elsewhere. It's a wonderful record, probably the best thing by a Family Stone member (including Sly) since the Fresh album, and I'll be damned if I can figure out why it's not available in its entirety on compact disc. You can get a couple of cuts from it on one of the Graham anthologies available. Caveat: There is a strong strain of fundamentalist religion running through all the lyrics, though, and if that sort of thing bothers you then you should just get over it. No, seriously- just thought I'd mention it.

Y'know, I don't know how many of you ever go back and read your old posts, but it's kind of a weird experience, to go back and see where your head was at 2-3 years ago. And I know, I'm long overdue in replacing images from many of my 2004 posts. Barely have the time and energy to post new stuff, let alone go back and do maintenance like that. Oh well, someday.

Anyway, this is a fine album, and I hope to get a copy ASAP. It's on my Amazon wish list, hint hint!

RIP BUCK OWENS, who died today at age 76.

When I was a kid growing up, of course I had heard "Tiger By the Tale" and "Heartaches by the Number" on the radio, and they were OK, but I didn't go nuts over them. I kinda regarded him like Ray Stevens or Roger Miller, who had recorded a lot of goofy-sounding, silly twangy country songs. Of course, one of the few ways that I've grown wiser as I grew older was recognizing the genius that went behind these songs. When I first heard the Beatles' "Act Naturally", suddenly Buck gained about a million cool points when I noticed his name on the label credit. Then, of course, came Hee Haw, which pretty much squandered them all as Buck's goofy grinning persona became they way he would be perceived for all time. Not that I really had anything against Hee Haw, mind you- it was mindlessly funny sometimes but hey, I was a teenager and far too hip to admit to liking anything that had anything to do with the show.

But when Owens kept getting namechecked, in the 80's, by all sorts of alt-country stars that I kinda liked such as Dwight Yoakam (to name but one), I went back and relistened to some of those grand old Bakersfield Sound-era LPs (at least the ones I could find) and came away really liking a lot of it- cornpone, some of it, but there was a tough, lean sound that spoke volumes there.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Third time's the charm for the
Periodic ruminations, castigations, dissemination and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of March 1-19!

Ye Parte the Third

PAINKILLER JANE 1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
S:Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Lee Moder, Pilvi Kuusela (color)
Yeesh- this is so bloody and unpleasant that it almost makes Body Bags seem like Owly! I've been reading the infrequent exploits of PKJ since back at the beginning, mostly attracted by Quesada's art (back when he actually used to draw things) and I've always been a bit intrigued by the preposterous but kinda sympathetic heroine- y'see, she can't be injured because she got shot full of something (I'm a little fuzzy exactly) and now she heals at a Wolverine-style pace when she gets cut, stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, et cetera. She's not very happy about it, but feels like she has no choice but to do all the crap work that the police don't want to do. Plus, like DC's new Manhunter, she gets a little satisfaction out of all the carnage. And there's plenty to spare here as she gets an assignment from her friend on the force, to go in and "clean up" a situation which is nightmarish indeed: apparently some B&D-obsessed surgeon has been taking young girls and performing radical twisted surgeries on them. yeah, horrible stuff to be sure- but at least it kinda leaves an impression, which is more than you can say for many horror comics. Another plus is the art of Lee Moder, whose work I really liked on the Legion of Super-heroes back in the 90's, and who does a nice job here as well, as far as I can tell- the coloring is so dark, murky and dull that you often can't see what's going on. Almost like reading a Vertigo comic sometimes! I don't know if I can recommend, but I kinda like- yet another guilty pleasure, I suppose. B

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
Ellis is just having too much fun here, and while he's used humor in his stories before, this is almost Not Brand Echh-ian with its constant bwah-ha-ha. Each character has charisma to burn, it's nice to be able to read the exploits of Boom-Boom without having to touch an X-book, and while Immonen's new weird-looking Simonson imitation takes some getting used to, it's never dull and helps the story out immeasurably. As straight as he's been shooting in this half-gone decade,perhaps someday we'll look back on the Aughts as Ellis' Golden Age. A-

LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 15 (Fantagraphics)
S/A: Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez
FINALLY got this one, and it was worth the wait. While I'll probably never be anything more than a detached admirer of Gilbert's oddball oeuvre, and his offerings in this issue are as whimsical and weirdo as ever, the highlight of this issue is (as is usually the case with me) Jaime's "Near Mint", a bittersweet interlude that features Ray running into Maggie at a comics convention, and reminiscing about the old days when they would go to cons and buy comics and generally have good times...but he's afraid to approach her since it's been a long time, plus he's with someone else, and so on. And when he finally does get up the nerve, it'll break your heart. I don't know why this struck a chord with me- I've never had an experience even remotely like it. I suppose once more Jaime's Hoppers characters have reminded me that I spent a great deal of my 20's and 30's reading about them, have come to know them almost intimately (or as intimately as one can know lines on paper)and aware of how much time has passed and...*snif* Aw, I'll be OK. Anyway, short story, tall impact and certainly one of the best things I've read this year anyway. Not to be outdone, Hopey also gets a showcase, a cutesy-but-still-fun account of her new job as a teacher, and also how she fails to get in to see one of her friends' bands, which makes one think back to the L&R glory days of the 80's and how much of an operator Hopey was and wow, how things have changed and she's not especially happy about it and...*snif*...All right, I'm composed again. I don't know if Jaime is feeling a little melancholy these days or what, but he's certainly turned out a strong set of stories this time. Maybe I'll get #16 a little quicker. A-

ULTIMATES 2 10 (Marvel)
S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Pardon if I spoil here, and I'm fairly certain most of you have read this already, but if you're a wait-on-the-trader, HERE BE SPOILERS! RIGHT HERE! Pretty much the standard, inevitable "turning of the tables" issue, in which our team, though utterly vanquished, shows that they weren't so vanquished after all. Done in high style, but sadly the style is follow-the-dots. And it was a bitch, no pun intended, that Jarvis got shot- his snippy back-and-forth with the other Avengers was a highlight. Another con: once more, Henry Pym is a traitor, albeit for a good reason, I suppose. Still, was that necessary? Oh well. Hitch and Neary aren't following any dots, though, they're excellent as always. A-

LOCAL 4 (Oni)
S: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly
A pair of most mismatched brothers have a bit of a summit at a roadside diner, that soon turns violent- and our poor unfortunate Megan, who really seems to be everywhere, once more proves the conventional wisdom about not picking up hitchhikers or stranded motorists. Pretty good dramatics, even though you have to question one of the brothers' motives, or at least his plan to achieve his goal, but heck, he wasn't rational anyway and it gets explained pretty well in the course of the story. Not quite as resonant (with me anyway) as last issue, but good just the same. Kelly's art is as solid as always, but it looked a bit rushed to me. A-

S: Grant Morrison; A: Freddie E. Williams II
Y'know, even Roberto Clemente struck out once in a while, and let's face it: although this may look better once the complete picture is drawn and the whole Seven Soldiers thing is done, right now this is a failure on almost every conceivable level- needlessly confusing, cluttered, dull, and very poorly drawn. I'm betting Grant will rebound and maybe even make this look better in retrospect, but Williams and me and my money shall stay as far apart as is humanly possible from now on, barring a miraculous Barry Smith-type stylistic epiphany. C

HELLBOY: MAKOMA 2 (Dark Horse)
S: Mike Mignola; A: Mignola, Richard Corben
No, I'm not typing the full damned title of this thing, which is of the school that begat the Faces song title "You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings)". Anyway, this was a corking good Hellboy yarn, as he inhabits a folk tale of deepest African magic as told by a mummy (hey, I'm halfway to giving the full title anyway!), and if Mignola doesn't have the time to draw it, at least he chipped in a few pages and got the great Corben to do one of his very best art jobs on it. Great stuff. Next up, as I understand it, another B.P.R.D. yarn and then Duncan Fregredo gets his shot. Oh, yeah. A

S: Grant Morrison; A: Doug Mahnke
Boyohboy, zombies again. Think this might be Grant giving us the other side of whatever urge led him to give us WE3? Reading this makes me wonder what Grant would have done with a concept like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I suppose we get a glimpse here. Wildly imaginative spin on a dozen Steven King-type scenarios as ravenous zombies, created by "something in the water" (or so we are led to believe) gets spliced into revisionist takes on Frankenstein's Bride, and we get a little X-Files stuff as the frosting on the cake. From all this, Morrison manages to cobble together a ripping good story, assisted in fine form by Doug Mahnke, whose work sans Tom Nguyen is incredibly hyperdetailed; you don't realize it until you've seen it. He's that rare breed of adventure artist who can implicitly, if not explicitly, put wit into his illustrations and makes it work almost every single time. A

Whew! This concludes reviews for the time being, but I'll be reprising many of these at PopCultureShock.com, plus I'll be posting something about Zombie Tales: The Dead and Jeremiah Harm #2 soon. I'll put some covers up later, in case you care.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Well, I had hoped to get the third in my Great March Review Trilogy up tonight, but that just ain't gonna happen. Soon, dearies, soon. I'll have to get 'em done before the weekend's over, since several of them are going up at PCS.

Hither, and its constant companion thither:

An upcoming Showcase Presents: THE PHANTOM STRANGER! I keep meaning to re-buy all those post-Wein/Aparo issues I used to have (27-41), but have managed to put it off for years. This might make a good substitute. Many of these have art by the underrated Gerry Talaoc. From a Newsarama posting on the recent WizardWorld LA, via...well, I forgot where I saw it. I apologize, whoever you are.

In the spirit of better late than never, here's Tom Spurgeon's 50 best of 2005. It will probably come as no surprise that I haven't read several of them, due to budgetary concerns more than anything. I have read stuff like that collected Calvin and Hobbes, but not as a part of that spiffy new, and utterly deserved, three-volume hardcover collection. Same goes for the Peanuts collections, of which I've read the first two but haven't gotten around to getting the subsequent volumes. I really think I should get The Night Fisher; the art looks wonderful. I'm on the fence about Black Hole- I bought one issue early in the run and wasn't terribly impressed even though I really like Burns' art. Now, I'm thinking that it might be worth checking out all in one place. My next comics shipment, set to go out on the 29th, will contain the SC of Top 10: The Forty-Niners, so I'm looking forward to that. Great, thought-provoking list.

No doubt you're all wondering what I thought of the V for Vendetta film, since I spent so much time writing about it back in October. Well, I'd tell you, but I haven't seen it yet! Just haven't had much of an opportunity to go to the movies these days. Wanted to see King Kong, too, but now I guess I'll just Netflix it. Le sigh.

Happy Birthday Jen Wang!

All right, I'm done. Good night.

Monday, March 20, 2006

And now, the belated second installment of
Periodic ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of March 1-19!

S: Paul Pope; A: Pope, with Jose Villarrubia
On the one hand, it's another plus-size helping of great Pope artwork, but on the other, well, it's a Batman story...and while one can't help thinking his time and energy might not be better spent with more lofty (if less lucrative) pursuits, at least he's putting a pretty good spin on the old cast of characters. And that artwork, with its retro-futuristic costume designs and equipment, not to mention the sheer andrenaline rush he evokes (even during the calmer moments, of which there are more than last isue) is well worth the price of admission in my book. A

S: Grant Morrison; A: Yanick Paquette, Serge LaPointe
Morrison's good intentions are shot in the foot by Paquette, whose art is fine overall in that Terry Dodson kind of pin-up way, but who doesn't seem to understand that it's impossible to toss cars with a broken arm...and the whole cause of Sally Sonic's sordid situation was that she looked like a teenager, even though she was an adult, so it might be in everyone's best interest if she was drawn like one. Still not a deal breaker, though- Bulleteer is an interesting character and of all the cast so far, I'm most curious about how she'll play her part in the upcoming Seven Soldiers #1. Not a failure, but not exactly a ringing success either. B+

100 BULLETS 70 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso
The wheels of Azzarello's labyrinthine plot grind slowly onward, and now more than ever I think I should sit down with the last 25 or so issues and refresh my memory about some of these characters. As always, wonderfully illustrated- Risso's art is never as opaque as the scripting. B+

DMZ 5 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli
Well, whaddaya know- last issue I was ready to give up on this title, but by giving us a simple story about our protagonist's struggle to get back his jacket and press pass after it was stolen, Wood really engaged my interest for the first time. Yeah, I know, eventually we'll be back to the big-picture stories but this time, in my book anyway, small-scale is a winner. B+

FELL 4 (Image)
S: Warren Ellis; A: Ben Templesmith
Small-scale is the order of the day every day with this title, which is part of its raison d'ĂȘtre. While I have my doubts about the legality of Fell's solution to his floater problem, the way he goes about it further soldifies the admiration one feels for this low-key and somewhat likeable cop who wants to do the right thing, even though none of the other residents of his horrible hellhole of a city want to or care to. Big part of this charm is Templesmith's art, always walking the fine line between caricature and impressionism, kinda like Kyle Baker crossed with John Bolton. A-

S: Bob Burden; Images: Sam Gaffin
Well, this is the big fumetti issue I've been hearing about for what seems like 20 years, and it's OK, I guess, with some funny lines here and there- mostly via Forrest Ackerman, of all people. The heavily Photoshopped photos are mildly clever, too, although they are too stiff and posed to work well with the words. Problem is, most of the time all this just lies there on the page and is nowhere near as clever as you want it to be, and that's kinda sad. C+

S: Steven T. Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan
As so often is the case with first issues, Seagle feels like he has to introduce all his plot threads at once, like he wasn't sure there was going to be a second issue or something. Despite this, he's aiming at a number of targets and I think with time he'll hit most of them- there's a little wit here, which is the one thing that distinguishes it the most from its thematically similar cousin Y: The Last Man. Vaughn's scripting is so dry and earnest that you don't think he could have fun in a comic if he tried. Seagle, on the other hand, seems to be out to take a wry look at sexual mores and organized religion (a very popular subject in Vertigo offerings these days)...and I think he's off to a good start. Becky Cloonan keeps him honest, with her playful depictions of most of the principals, mom and stepdad and cousins especially, and her storytelling is as good here as it was on DEMO. So far, I like. A-

FABLES 47 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham; A: Jim Fern, Jimmy Palmiotti
As fill-ins go, this wasn't bad, and it was nice to see Jim Fern's art again. He really deserves an ongoing showcase for his fine-line GrayMorrowErnieColon-isms. Story-wise, I couldn't care less about the Pinocchio-like protagonists but I did appreciate how Willingham ties this in to the main storyline by showing us what happens to them after they become human. Now can we get back to the main storyline? B+

Coming soon, in part the third: HELLBOY: MAKOMA 2, SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN 3, LOCAL 4, and NEXTWAVE 2, and that's not all!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oh, lookout! It's
Periodic ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of March 1-19!

Part The First.

S/A: Hope Larson
Some comics come across like big-budget Hollywood action thrillers; some are more like science fiction epics or Clint Eastwood westerns. Gray Horses, though, suggests a foreign film, by Fellini perhaps, that you'd catch on the Sundance Channel at about 3 AM. Hope's use of iconography and imagery to communicate feelings and action is always intuitive and clever (Scott McCloud is proud, you bet), and her supple inkline work is to die for, to coin a phrase. Story-wise, as with Salamander Dream, I suspect that this story of a young French girl on her own in Canada and her dreams, in which she becomes a horse who comes to the aid of another young girl means more to the author than it does its readers, but at least this time she gives us a more grounded narrative which helps keep this from floating off into the ether. I thought this was very charming, and thrillingly illustrated- and while I don't think the average House of Identity enthusiast will find much to interest him/her here, I know you, my reader with more discerning tastes, will. A

TOM STRONG 36 (America's Best Comics/Wildstorm/DC)
S: Alan Moore; A: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jose Villarrubia
A bittersweet return to the events of the final issue of Promethea, this time from the Strongs' viewpoint. The ABC line began with high hopes, and for a while it fulfilled them all as Alan Moore pulled off the amazing feat of writing five books, each with interesting premises and great art to accompany them. Then, Moore's notorious DC aversion reared its head after Wildstorm cast its lot with the one company he had no desire to produce work for ever again...and the rest was history. So was Moore, after a few more scripts, and his successors on each title (save Promethea, which Moore guided to the end) just weren't really up to the unenviable task of following a master. I stayed with Tom Strong for about a half dozen issues after Moore left, but I felt like it was spinning its wheels and getting nowhere, plus Sprouse had ceased to be the main artist- so I dropped it. It was so far under my radar that I didn't realize that this final issue was going to see Moore's return, along with original artists Sprouse and Story, until I read Jog's typically erudite review, and I realized that I really needed to pick it up. Glad I did, although I would imagine that like the final issue of Promethea, it helps if one is familiar with the ongoing storyline, which doesn't seem to have changed a whit since I stopped buying several months ago- especially considering the somewhat surprising and perfectly logical reveal at the end. Sprouse and Story are as solid as always, and Villarrubia is on hand to provide a similar look in the scenes involving the Promethea event. Despite the melancholy vibe of the story (which is probably more my perception than anything else), this is a heck of a good send-off, and I'm glad I was around for it. A

POWERS V2 17 (Marvel/Icon)
S: Brian Michael Bendis; A: MIchael Avon Oeming
Okay, whoever doesn't know where this is heading, raise your hand. Anyone? Yeah, didn't think so. Still, this is compelling because we who have been reading this long have invested ourselves in the characters- and while I'm not so sure this is the best direction to go, I continue to be interested enough to see where it goes. And to kinda hope for a finale that would spell the end for this moribund series whose creator seems to have lost interest in. B+

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Fabio Moon, "ZID of IFS", Joe Abraham, "ALFA of IFS".
Hey, where have I seen that cover design before? Anyway, a big step up from the too-talky and inconsistent first issue, and a convincing argument for an ongoing series featuring these characters, especially the Mister Brilliant/Purring Pussycat team and the intriguing Third Eye, despite its less-than-fresh premise. And Ross, if you can get Fabio Moon to do the whole series this time, that would be absolutely wonderful. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A:Tony DeZuniga
Big news here isn't so much the story, which isn't bad for a Western spin on The Petrified Forest with (thank God) no corrupt town bosses for Hex to run afoul of, but the return of the man who illustrated nearly every 70's Hex story, Tony DeZuniga- and damned if he isn't in excellent form, with his (excuse the expression) grim 'n' gritty version providing a necessary jolt to the proceedings. And maybe it's just my imagination (...running away with me), but at several points his layout and page design, as well as several figure poses, remind me of Bat Lash artist Nick Cardy. This is old-school DC representin', showin' the youngbloods how it's done. A-

S/A: Jason Pearson
One of the series to come out under Dark Horse's short-lived Blanc Noir and Maverick imprints, Body Bags is an ultra-violent, shamelessly exploitative, and crass exercise with very little socially redeeming value whatsoever...and that's just fine with me. Don't know how else the bloody, and bloody humorous, adventures of a smiley-face masked, oversize bounty hunter with his hyperactive, slutty jailbait daughter could be done. Of course, it helps that the unpredictable Pearson is a skillful artist with a lively, clever style and a great ear for 'hood dialogue. I suppose the whole thing kinda invites comparison with the films of Tarantino- trash, but remarkably well-done, entertaining trash. With the promise of more adventures of Clownface and Panda, it almost makes up for the puzzling and disappointing disappearance of the Razor's Edge-Redbird series of a year or so ago. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A: Khari Evans
Here's another book which had a lackluster debut, but got a lot better in chapter 2 as Graymiotti replaces the smirky, adolescent tone of #1 in favor of better characterization and what seems like the beginnings of a pretty good actioner a la the early days of Hitman, in which we get a more down-to-earth and humorous look at the less glamorous side of what passes for the Marvel universe these days. Evans' art is much better this time out as well, less concerned with contorted "sexy" poses and more with telling the story. I'm not ready to make with hosannas just yet, but all I'm saying is I enjoyed this one, and I didn't the last one, and I hope that signals a trend. Clever cover, too, as the ladies re-enact the Beastie Boys' "So Whatcha Want" video. B+

That's all for now! Coming up in part 2: BATMAN YEAR 100 2, AMERICAN VIRGIN 1, FELL 4, SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER 4, and the tardy LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 15. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, March 17, 2006

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Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Sure, an' I can't believe Turner Classic isn't showing this film today, even though I'm not home to see it so I guess it doesn't matter. And really, it's not that good a movie, either, despite the presence of the luminous Priscilla Lane.

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Edit 3/18 Just wanted to post this hellasweet Colleen Coover St. Pat illo.

Got three weeks' worth of new comics last night, so there wil be reviews forthcoming, probably Sunday. Reason to get up in the morning, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Random stuff, from hither and thither.

First, a public service announcement.

That flatterer James Sime sent me a link to a 25-page preview of an upcoming AiT/PlanetLar release, Continuity, which seems to be a sort of Trainspotting-meets-Transmetropolitan-via little-remembered (and for good reason) Vertigo limited series Accelerate with art that reminds me of a blend of Tom Sutton, Joe Maneely or any number of Marvel/Timely/Atlas pre-Kirby giant monster comics, and Bambi creator Atsushi Kaneko.

Quite a mash-up, and the preview was a lively affair. But as Ray Davies once sang, "Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself!" Of course, the next line was "Have another drink/and you'll feel all right", so if you want to do that then by all means go ahead. Unless you're driving. But why are you reading the internet and driving?

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To anyone who's read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell...Gilbert Norrell, anyone? If I was the casting director, I would say yes.

You should all be checking out Project Rooftop, a website which features redesigns, and reviews of same, of costumes for various and sundry characters. So far, there have been spiffy new looks for the Falcon, of Captain America and... fame, and the Black Widow. The megatalented Dean Trippe, who's been known to do a mean redesign or two himself, is one of the ringmasters.

Quick! Go vote on the cover you like best for the upcoming Adventures of Brisco County DVD set! Not that I'm trying to influence you or anything, but I like the one on the right. Truth be told, my crank remains unyanked by either of them. Still, voting is open until Friday the 17th. So go! Then come back!

DC's June solicits are up. I should do a rundown and post some covers, like I used to, but it won't be tonight. Not that much I'm looking forward to, actually. That said, I like this cover, an appropriately fearsome image. But I have grave, no pun intended, doubts about a Spectre with a goatee.

I'm a bit intrigued by this new Secret Six revival attempt; I've preordered #1 and will probably pick up the first half dozen, appropriately enough. Here's the snazzy cover for #2.

Yay! Sergio Aragones gets an issue of Solo! Somehow I doubt that it will feature people reading letters on subway t rains or peeping in windows.

I don't usually buy Justice League Adventures, but I'm totally getting #22. Why, you ask? GYPSY! I answer.

Looks like I'm running them down anyway, doesn't it? Oh well...that's about all I wanted to comment on.

Still no new comics shipment from DCBS...I'm afraid that they still think I selected monthly shipping for March instead of bi-monthly like it shows on my unshipped items statement. I've sent them an email to see if I can't get it straightened out, but in the meantime I'm accumulating quite a boxful! I just hope I can get them in time to put some of them in April's PopCultureShock column. I will, however, be writing a bit about Planetary Brigade #2 and Hope Larson's Gray Horses, both of which I've recently received.

OK, that's all I got. Read the review below, willya, because I didn't mean to push it down the page so far.
I had the most remarkable motion picture viewing experience last night, one in which I went in expecting nothing and came away very pleasantly surprised. It was a film that had no major stars, either from the decade in which it was filmed or any subsequent (unless you are a big Tom Conti fan), a small budget, and came and went (upon its initial release) with very little (if any) fanfare on either side of the Big Pond. As you probably guessed from the pic at right, the stars were the 70's glam-rock band Slade, and it was their 1975 screen debut SLADE IN FLAME. And wonder of wonders, it was a hell of a good movie.

Now, back in 1976, despite the fact that I had read the occasional Creem article about the band, and was heavily digging their greatest-hits LP Sladest and its 1974 successor Clap Your Feet Stomp Your Hands (known as Old New Borrowed Blue in the UK), I was totally unaware that Slade had made a movie. Then I saw the the soundtrack LP, noted that it claimed to be a "soundtrack" of the film of the same name, and assumed that it had been a cheapjack star vehicle that got little release and had quickly faded into obscurity. And for the most part, I was right- I did see the occasional mention of the film here and there, but never saw it on TV, nor did it seem to be available on VHS by the time I began looking for movies in that format. I figured it had shared the fate of Harry Nilsson & Ringo Starr's Son of Dracula, mentioned occasionally but never seen and leaving behind a collection of tunes on vinyl to mark its existence. And by the end of the 80s, despite a brief career popularity spike in the middle fo that decade, Slade itself had pretty much become forgotten and invisible except to all but the most devoted fans, and I pertty much forgot about the flick myself. But fortunately, not everyone shared my selective amnesia, and eventually (2002, I think) Flame came out on DVD, and it occurred to me the other day to see if it was available via Netflix- and once more that most wondrous of online DVD rental services came through.

When the film was conceived in 1974, in the waning days of the Glitter/Glam movement, the boys were at the peak of their popularity, won with such hits as "Cum Feel the Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazy Now", and it was decided that the next step must be a movie, a la the Beatles before them. Slade kinda had the image of a bunch of rowdy yobboes who tore it up in concert, best represented by singer Noddy Holder's piercing yowling vocals, not as fey as the Bolans and Ferrys- most atypical glamsters indeed. So you'd think that they would seek to make a Help!-style romp, with lots of songs and goofing around, exactly what the kids wanted to see. Well, no. What they did, first time actors and director alike, was defy the odds and expectations and made a serious, downbeat movie about the rise and fall of a bunch of English working-class lads who formed a group and rose to the top of the heap in short order. To keep it from being too biographical, or at least to avoid having that read into it, they contrived to play a group called "Flame", and took anecdotes from a number of fellow musicians to fill out the script.

The story begins as bassist Jim Lea, guitarist Dave Hill, and eventually drummer Don Powell ("Paul", "Barry" and "Charlie", respectively) labor in a covers band with a singer named "Jack Daniels", who looks like an aging Ted and croons Elvis songs with a terrible vibrato. They tend to share gigs and venues with another local band, "The Undertakers", who dress like vampires and zombies, and basically nick Screaming Lord Sutch and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' schtick by having their vocalist "Stoker" (Noddy Holder) singing inside a coffin. One evening, before their performance Barry padlocks the coffin, locking Stoker inside and wrecking the Undertakers' set. As the 'Takers run down Daniels and company in a high speed freeway chase, Daniels totals his car and both bands get taken to jail and break up due to frustration as well as lack of funds and success. Eventually, though, the three Daniels band guys recruit Stoker to sing for them, and form Flame- and at first they're managed by a gangster named Johnny Shannon (who also manages Daniels), much to their chagrin. In their first gig as a group, they play a scorching version, no pun intended, of Slade song "Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing", which gets them noticed by a corporate fellow who immediately signs them up for his boss- a marketing whiz who doesn't care anything about rock music- he just knows he can market the band to the top. Seeing their chance to grab the brass ring, they take it and in short order they are headlining, selling tons of records, and living the rockstar life. Eventually two things rear their ugly heads- first, the pressure and the stress of the rockstar life plays havoc among the erstwhile friends, and soon they begin fighting and bickering and threatening to quit, even as their popularity grows. Another problem is the unscrupulous Shannon, who claims to have a signed contract with the group and is determined to get his "fair share", by force if necessary. Not exactly Hard Day's Night, is it?

Here's the thing- this film is solid, very well done. The guys of Slade weren't really actors, but they do a heck of a good job (all things considered) not only in the lighter parts, but the dramatic ones as well. Holder is especially good- his Stoker is a rascal and a smartass, but when the chips are down you can tell he will do the right thing. Lea also acquits himself nicely as well, in a role which calls for him to be intrigued by and driven to achieve success and fame, but who also has a wife and child and finds himself torn between his domestic life and the rockstar life. Powell, who according to Holder in the DVD extra interview had recently been in a car wreck which played hell with his short-term memory, has a nicely done dramatic scene and supplies a steady stream of quips and one-liners to leaven the gloomy nature of the script. All the supporting players are fine as well, especially Ron Harding as Shannon, who plays a real slimeball but not so much that you can't see his side of things, and Conti as the money man who gets a bit more than he bargained for with his proteges. The film was shot on location in England, among those familiar rows of boxy little houses on hillsides and in rundown districts and clubs, and the atmosphere is 100% authentic. And of course, this being a rock band's film, there are plenty of performing scenes and they don't disappoint there either. Musically, Flame was one of the band's more ambitious projects- the theme song, "How Does it Feel", is a pensive ballad with loud horn-driven interludes, perhaps one of the best songs they ever committed to vinyl; the aforementioned "Monkey" performance was riveting, with Holder at his charismatic best; and other album cuts like "Far Far Away" and "So Far So Good" (more typical of Slade's usual pop-rock sound) are nicely showcased. Imagine a B-movie cross between The Commitments, Snatch, and Billy Elliot, and you'll have an idea of the feel of this movie.

One reason why the film lapsed into obscurity is that it was totally confounded the expectations of the Slade faithful, who wanted something lighter and more exciting from their heroes- and all things considered (and from a distance of 30 years on) was probably one of the contributing factors to their fall from commercial grace as Punk arose in 1976, even though they were always the punkiest of the Glam bands- and frankly, to my ears "That Kind of Monkey" is as loud, fast and sloppy as anything the Ramones or Pistols ever did. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and the group did have a brief revival of fortunes a few years later. But ya gotta admire the heck out of them for making a movie like this in the first place.

So here's a recommendation. If any of this sounds interesting, take a flyer on Slade in Flame. It just might make your night, like it did mine.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Script: Phil Amara, Tim McCarney and Mike Russo; Art: Richard Jenkins.

One of my favorite comics series of the last few years was Nevermen, a deranged pulp-adventure pastiche that was immaculately illustrated by Guy Davis and written by one Phil Amara with a sort of deadpan bravado and wacky playfulness, especially in the dialogue, which scanned quite unlike anything I'd read before in a four-color funnybook. After Dark Horse released the most recent Nevermen series a couple of years ago, I've seen nothing from Amara since- until now, when I noticed his byline on top of the latest offering from AiT/PlanetLar, SKY APE: KING OF GIRLS.

Well, his byline flanked by a couple of others, and therein lies the rub as far as I'm concerned, and I don't mean a rub under the table a la Joe Casey. Not much of this reads like what I'm accustomed to seeing from Amara- perhaps the opening page, with its mock-Spillane dialogue, and a few of the stranger non sequitur-laden statements that the hero makes. This leaves me a little unsure about how exactly I feel about this issue- is it a benefit-of-the-doubt type case involving some green talent, spinning off from inspiration or characters/situations provided by Amara, or is this a really disappointing effort from the Nevermen/Marquis scripter, or a too-many-cooks scenario, or...well, I think you see what I mean.

Not that this is terrible- far from it. You all know that I have a weakness for straightfaced absurdity a la Flaming Carrot or Scurvy Dogs, and this is right there in that style. And the lead character is charismatic- a no-nonsense, tough-talking gorilla who wears a jetpack and chomps on a stogie, coming across like a cross of Monsieur Mallah, Nick Fury, and Hellboy. The story itself, an account of a threat from a Politenessman-type character who is taking nerdy losers and transforming them into self-centered lotharios bent on loving and leaving women the world over, and the over-busy Sky Ape's recruitment of a super-team of misfits named "Victory's 13", was a fast-paced read- rarely dull, and laced throughout with some clever quips. This immediately reminds one of another AiT publication, but unlike the sophomoric Mantooth, which didn't work for me at all, there's some genuine wit buried inside the constant pop-culture references and nonsense proclamations and the end result is that one wishes that this could have been just a little sharper, just a little more witty and less self-conscious and less of an aspirant to that Adult Swim-style ethos. It wasn't the smartest strategy to go the tired old super-hero satire route, either- it's been done to death, and with more skill in the past. I don't know anything at all about the other two credited scripters- it's entirely possible that if I read some of their other work, even some other issues of SA (this was my first exposure), I might get a more favorable impression.

Art-wise, it's pretty much the same. Richard Jenkins has one of those angular, cartoony styles, kinda-sorta like Jim Mahfood or Ryan Yount or the guy that draws Amazing Joy Buzzards, but reminds me in places of Pete Bagge, especially in the facial expressions and body language of the Sky Ape himself. He does a fine job- not great, but certainly not bad either.

At the risk of damning with faint praise, Sky Ape: King of Girls was almost not not bad. Wouldn't mind reading more one of these days, but I'm not inclined to go out of my way to do so. Perhaps with time the writers will get a better sense of when enough's enough as well as hone their dialogue a bit more, but after four issues you'd think that would have happened already. Only time will tell! And Amara- get back to more Nevermen, please.B

Saturday, March 11, 2006

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I have now read #'s 1-6, 10, 12, and 15-19.

I have a new guilty pleasure, it seems. Like I said before, I'll be damned if I know why I like this comic; it's pure superhero wallow, plain and simple and a grimly unpleasant one at that. But for some reason that I haven't figured out yet, I like the characters, and that includes dear ol' Cameron Chase, who's well-represented here even though Andreyko doesn't quite have her personality as set forth by D.C. Johnson down and the artists draw her as too much of a botox-lipped sexpot. But I don't blame them, it's obvious that they learned to draw from copying 80's comics and little else. So anyway, I still have a half dozen issues to get and my DCBS sub starts with #20 so I guess I'm in for the long haul.

And not to criticize an artist who can really draw, Jae Lee, but on his cover for #4 above wouldn't the point, so to speak, have been made more explicit by having the weapon pointing upward? Just wondering.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI don't know how much many of you reading this know about music theory, notation, and such- but I recently stumbled upon a webpage which presents essays written about each song in the Beatles' canon, with particular attention paid to the mechanics of the tune. Even "Revolution No.9". Anyway, I know very little about theory and so forth, and quite frankly didn't understand half of what I read, but if you're a Fabs fan, and are interested in a scholarly dissection of same, then you should, you know, check it out or something.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

To quote Brett Somers, "Good gravy Marie!" I haven't posted anything since Saturday?!?

And I'm sorry, but I don't really have much to offer right now, either- long hard day at the office, I'm afraid. Stupid Indesign file gave me fits all day when I was trying to send it to the imagesetter. Makes me tired, I tell you, since it was far from the only job I had to send out.

Anyways, eventually I'll get around to the last two issues of Beowulf, as well as, just maybe, another Johnny B Heart Netflix with my opinions and observations about Fantastic Four, The Skeleton Key, Knockaround Guys, and Domino. I'm also mulling over the selctions for that Feature that Time Forgot, JB's Mondo Vinyl-O! haven't done one in months.

Of course, I'm sure you all know not to hold your breath or stand on one leg waiting.

So in lieu of anything substantial, here's a quick list of my next comics shipment, which should have been sent out today but apparently hasn't:


And that's it! Yes, I know that Love & Rockets has been out for weeks, but for some reason DCBS didn't get my copy and are finally now shipping it. Oh well, it's all good. I'll also be heading to the LCS, where they'll be having a 20% off sale this weekend, to pick up a few back issues of Manhunter, to go with the four (#'s 16-19) I got on eBay the other day.

That's all I got for now. Be good, and be good to each other.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

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Watched Bride of Frankenstein AGAIN last night, even though it was on AMC, a channel which I will go to great lengths to avoid whenever possible due to its movie-hostile stance. Even though it's a little stagey sometimes, there is just so much going on in the direction (that crazy, quick-cut-jittery Whale direction during the big laboratory scene, to name one example) and the incredible performance by Ernest Thesiger, who conveys more with a smirk or a lifted eyebrow than many actors have in their entire career, that I never get tired of seeing it. Anyway, this morning I was directed by Mark Evanier to a website that spotlights treasury-sized comics of the (mostly) 1970's, many of which I actually still own (the Christmas with the Super Heroes, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Conan: Red Nails, others)...well worth checking out. But, being the curious sort, I thought I'd click on a link or two and find out more about the site's creator, who turns out to be a graphic artist named Robert J. Kelly, and among his wonderful works is a series of movie posters, done solely for his own enjoyment, or, in his own words:

"...I came up with the concept of producing a series of posters for the films, pretending as though they were being re-released in theatres. I wanted to have them be a combination of retro and modern design styles. I kept thinking, what would catch my eye while walking through a theatre lobby?"

And as fate would have it, I was once again beholding the countenance of Elsa Lanchester as the monster's unfortunate would-be Bride! At right here is three more of the posters, click to see it bigger, and you can go here to see the rest.

Let's see, what else can I talk about...

Had to work tonight at the radio station: high school basketball tournament game you know, so no plans were made to go out and do anything. Hence my presence on the 'Net on a Saturday night. I've got a double feature of Knockaround Guys and Domino waiting for me in the living room, when I get tired of typing.

Went on eBay today and purchased four issues of DC's Manhunter comic, to augment my purchase of #6 a few days ago. There were also a typically (typical for my comics shop, that is) incomplete set of back issues at my LCS which I put back to purchase when they have a 25% off sale later next week. And so my back issue hunt has begun, and it looks like I'll be a regular Manhunter reader, for the time being anyway. I've already pre-ordered #'s 20 and 21 from DCBS. Someday I'll get interested in a comic BEFORE it's had 19 issues come out... Among my recent casualties, i.e. comics I decided to stop buying, were Loveless, Catwoman, and Legion of Super Heroes, with Testament getting a last-minute reprieve.

Last weekend, I took advantage of the going-out-of-business sale at the Sam Goody's in nearby Glasgow to get DVDs of The Concert For Bangla-Desh and the T.Rex/Marc Bolan/Ringo film Born to Boogie for 30% off apiece. I'd already seen Boogie, but had never seen the Harrison benefit before although I do own the box-set soundtrack which came out in 1971. Great stuff, with Billy Preston, Bob Dylan, and good old Ringo getting nice spotlights.

Caught the new Justice League Unlimited episode earlier tonight- pretty good, for the most part. I must have missed, or perhaps forgot in the hiatus between new episodes, about what happened to incapacitate Gorilla Grodd. Lotsa chuckles as Flash and Luthor do a Dr. Fate-enabled "Freaky Friday" and switch minds, and the JLA struggles to contain Lex in Flash's body, and Flash struggles with leading the Secret Society of Super Villains.

You've probably seen this already, but someone made a short film starring none other than the Busty Battler herself: Power Girl. And it's pretty good, too- the actress cast as PG really looks like her, the costume looks really good as well, and even though it has porn-film-like production values (in fact, it looks so much like a porno that I got a little nervous watching it at work the other day) it's still often amusing and worth checking out. Beware- if you, like me, have a pokey internet connection it will take a small eternity to load up.

In past years, I've made Oscar (TM) predictions, even though I've rarely seen most of the nominated films. That's the case again this year, but I don't think I'll try to predict. I'll probably get around to seeing many of the nominees eventually, especially Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana, but that's a ways away. I do have History of Violence in the Netflix queue, though, so when that's released I'll see it ASAP. Capote sounds interesting, and I'll probably see Brokeback Mountain eventually as well. I'll be watching the ceremony tomorrow night, for sure. Hope Tom the Dog will be blogging it!

If you've been reading me for a long time, you may recall that I waxed effusive several times about the Marvel/Atlas heroine, Venus, a favorite of mine since she reappeared in a 70's issue of Sub-Mariner. I found a great cover gallery and info page about not only Victoria Nutley Starr, but all the Marvel/Atlas/Timely books. I had not seen all the Venus covers before, but this site has 'em- including the cover at left, click to see close up.

Oyasumi nasai, y'all.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Hey! It's up! My new review column for Buzzscope, Johnny Bacardi's New Comics Revue, that is. Check it out! I'm somebody!

I'll be reposting the reviews over there over here eventually.

Also, before I forget once again, happy blogaversaries to two of the best and brightest of the Blogosphereiverse: Bill Sherman, that Peripatetic Pop Culture Gadabout, and a very very apologetic and belated happy happy to Neilalien, that Pulse-Pounding Palindrome of Pamphlet Perusal.

More this weekend, hopefully, although I may spend it performing long overdue comics and Cd organizing...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Here I go again with
Periodic ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of February 16-28!

Part The First.

S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: "Chee"
The Boom!ers have certainly been churning out the titles lately, haven't they? And for the most part, they've been of generally high quality, taking established fantasy fiction tropes and getting them across with enthusiasm and spirit, which does count for something. Unfortunately, this also means that once in a while, they drop a bomb on our unsuspecting heads, and this is one of them. Completely derivative and uninspired in execution, there's absolutely nothing here that you haven't seen or read before if you're even marginally familiar with the numerous extrapolations of Wells' long-ago novel. And while it certainly seems like our boy "Chee" has labored mightily (along with his colorist, Matt Webb), it unfortunately just makes it look mighty labored and utterly unremarkable. Nice cover by Jeff Rebner and Ron Riley, though. Couldn't help but think it would be highly amusing if the Martians keep coming back at the end of every issue... C

S: Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes; A: Rhoald Marcellus.
#2? I never saw #1! Oh well. This was still an enjoyable Night of the Comet-esque tale of four LA teenagers who are on the run from your basic zombie plague, and it's never dull, mostly thanks to Stokes's lively dialogue and the passable manga stylings of Marcellus, kinda stiff but not static. All things considered, though, despite Boom!'s admittedly better-than-most takes on the genre, I think I could quite happily live the rest of my life and never read another story with reanimated dead people in it. B+

S: Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco
Not-bad second chapter from new writer Mina. Nice to see Constantine as an active, rather than passive, protagonist again. Manco's art even looks better, although it's still very sloppy. Howzat for a short-n-sweet review? B+

LOVELESS #4 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Marcelo Frusin
I usually give new titles six issues to win me over, but I've had enough this time after four. Despite actually engaging my interest last time out, this one sinks back in the murk of Azzarello's ever-mannered circuitous dialogue and too-gnarly-for-its-own-good plotting. Bendis is fucking Shakespeare compared to him. Frusin is as solid as always, but he's wasted here. I miss him on Hellblazer. Here's where I get off. Happy trails, podner. C+

S: Rick Remender; A: Eric Nguyen
This is readable enough, fast-paced and enjoyable, and once in a while Remender gives us the impression that he's been thinking about the nature of religion and belief, just enough to make you wish he'd dig a little deeper. It may be beyond him, though, because really all he seems to want to do is Mad Max-meets-Highway to Hell. I know, I know, we can't all be Alan Moore. This is Nguyen's last issue for the forseeable future, he's off to play with the big boys at Marvel, just as he had learned to rein in his chaotic style so it complimented, rather than struggled with, the story. That's comics for ya. B+

TESTAMENT #3 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Douglas Rushkoff, A: Liam Sharp
Here's another title which promises much but delivers little other than a blend of Orwell and C.S. Lewis, with art that delivers a decent Quitely impersonation, neither of which is as exciting as it sounds. Somebody better flick the "on" switch in my head pretty soon, or I'm bailing on this one as well. C+

DAREDEVIL #82 (Marvel)
S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark
Playing the cards that Bendis dealt him before he folded and left the table, Brubaker does the best he can with a grindingly tired premise and the same old same old cast of characters. What I wouldn't give for a nice Matador or Leap-Frog battle! Oh well, fortunately this is the Brube we're talking about, and he can wring some genuine tension and pathos out of the situation, mostly by virtue of Foggy Nelson and his tribulations in the wake of his partner's escapades. Guess we better enjoy him while we can. Lark is rock-steady as always, a really talented and nuanced artist, even when someone is clumsily Photoshopping the hell out of him. B+

LUCIFER #71 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Peter Gross, Aaron Alexander
Carey continues to lock all the doors and turn out the lights, as he slowly works towards the series finale in #75. This time out he resolves the situation with the piano bar that he started waaay back in the Sandman days, as well as the acolytes which had gathered outside. Gave me a tiny twinge of nostalgia, it did. Nicely understated story, noting Eisnerworthy but another satisfying chapter in a book that I'll certainly miss. A-

S: Will Pfiefer; A: Pete Woods
Maybe I'm just being contrary, but I'm more interested in the Slam Bradley and his armor-wearing son subplot than I am in the whole Selina vs. Black Mask thing, which, let's face it, has been done already. And didn't she drop him off a building then? Oh well, doesn't matter anyway, any of it, because next up is...ONE YEAR LATER! Still, I don't blame Pfiefer, who's doing a good job and is just playing by the House rules, but I'm not finding a lot of reasons to keep buying, especially because one powerful incentive, the art of Woods, is no longer going to be featured in this title. We shall see, I guess. B

S: Stuart Moore, Mark Waid; A: Pat Oliffe, "Livesay", Somebody DeKraker, Rodney(?) Ramos
I don't know, it's like they just don't want me to like this title. The lead story is a cluttered, messy, chaotic fill-in involving time travel and various incarnations of the LSH, including the Disco-era Tyroc, possessor of one of the dumbest costumes in comics history, and members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains...and if I was 14 years old I might have dug it but at my age I just found it tiresome. It's not helped by the workmanlike and uninspired Oliffe art- as an illustrator he makes a good colorist. Substitute scripter Stuart Moore's a better writer than this, I know. There's an extended letters section as well, but no Amanda Connor this time and it's even duller than the lead feature. I think it's quite apparent that this is not going to be the Legion of Super-Heroes that I want to read, so I think it's best if I moved on now, before we both do something we might regret. C-

S: Wilson, A: Matt Smith
After this, the penultimate issue, all I can say is that there's a lot to be said for sticking with the source material. Kiddies, just read the book. It's better than this DOA exercise. Rarely have I felt as let down by an artist whose work I had previously admired. C+

S/A: Ted Naifeh
Polly, still smarting from being put through the wringer last time out, sets about making things right, and even comes across, oddly enough, as a bit more likeable. Another enjoyable gothic Peter Pan-inspired chapter of what has been a pretty good read so far, despite Naifeh's predilection for drawing hands like claws and giving Polly gingerbread-man feet. A

S: Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier; A: Ben Templesmith
Ordinarily I look forward to revisionist spins on classic fairytale characters, Fables notwithstanding, with the same enthusiasm as I approach root canal surgery or standing in line at the grocery store, that is, not at all. But this is another exception- a genuinely clever spin on a number of sources, mostly but not limited to Lewis Carroll, kinda like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Dark City at the intersection of Lemony Snicket and Interview With the Vampire. I think most of the credit must go to Templesmith, whose witty and exaggerated cartoonishness is given free rein and is often amazing- I like him better here than on Fell, and he's pretty good there, too. I think this was a preview of #2- credits were hard to find on the advance copy I received and I had to go to the website to find out who was publishing it. As far as I can tell, this is an illustrated graphic novel sequel or spinoff or something to a novel by Beddor. I never saw #1, but I'm intrigued enough to look for it, subsequent releases, and the "official" #2 as well. Mysteries upon mysteries! A

And that's all I got for now; look for part two sooner or later, after the Buzzscope column sees the light of day. After it sees light of day I HOPE, that is.