Sunday, July 30, 2006


In which I take a look at films I've rented recently via that most excellent of online DVD rental services, as well as some I've seen on cable TV as well.

Good cast and excellent early-mid 70's period detail get sunk by a lackluster script. Breakfast follows the exploits of one Patrick "Kitten" Braden, a young fellow with a predilection for transvestism who leaves his convoluted parentage issues behind in the small Irish town of Tyreelin, searching for his niche as well as his long-lost mother (as we are reminded constantly), set against the background of not only the Glam-era U.K. (does a much better job of evoking that fondly-remembered era than Velvet Goldmine, in fact), but also the unrest and violence of Ireland and England. Kitten blithely goes from encounter to encounter (one with none other than Bryan Ferry as a nasty bit of rough trade), from an affair with a Ted-looking rock singer (think Gary Glitter fronting the Sweet; a mostly amusing perf from Gavin Friday) to living the sordid life on the streets, to being in the wrong place at the wrong time as he gets caught in an explosion in a London disco, then gets arrested and blamed as the (apparently) sole Irishman in the place. Of course, he skates after a period of time, and eventually ends up reconciling with his past and helping a friend through a rough period. I think screenwriters Neil Jordan and Pat McCabe (from his book) really intended Kitten to be something of a Forrest Gump-like holy fool as he goes from bad spot to bad spot and gets through by simply acting vague, innocent and/or insane, but unlike Gump, who was at least somewhat likeable and had a sort of moral backbone- the courage of his convictions if you will, Kitten is just annoying...and that's the biggest problem with the whole thing as far as I'm concerned; I just never could buy the character, even though Cillian Murphy does a great job of bringing him to life as he's written. The whole film is well acted, with great turns provided by ol' reliable Liam Neeson as the conflicted Father Bernard, and the radiant Ruth Negga (picture at right, with Murphy) as one of Kitten's pals from the Auld 'Hood who ends up married to an IRA bomber and pregnant- she's sexy and tough and vulnerable throughout, and has some of the most expressive eyes I've seen in quite some time. Guess you could say I was smitten, huh! Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye out for her in the future. There's a lot to like about Breakfast; it doesn't drag but I just wish it had been a little sharper and a little smarter in certain places. B+

Excellent, imaginative visuals and the ever-sexy Milla Jovovich (quite the visual herself) are the only reasons to watch this confusing, violent and unsatisfying mess of a film. C+

I suppose if I liked Neil's Prairie Wind album more than I did, I would have been more favorably disposed towards this handsomely photographed account of a Young show at the fabled Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Problem is, I just don't so I got kinda bored about halfway through. The most fun I had with this was at the very beginning, in which filmmaker Jonathan Demme interviews the band in various vehicles as they drive through the streets of Nashville to the show, and it was neat to see the familiar landmarks and streets framed in the windows behind the subjects. I doubt that was what Demme had in mind as he filmed. As far as the concert itself goes, we get earnest, sincere and dull renditions of selected oldies and much of the Wind album, in which he is backed by many of the usual suspects (Ben Keith, whose steel hasn't sounded unique since 1975 or so; Spooner Oldham, Emmylou Harris, bassist Rick Rosas) and just looks and sounds geezerly and feeble in his light suit and hat. I liked the semi-animated opening credits. If you're an admirer of Young's recent work, which I am not really, you'll be more charitably inclined. But as someone who remembers when and has given up on seeing its like again, I give this a B.


Few musicians have aged less gracefully than Rod Stewart, who was once one of the most unique and finest rock/soul/blues singers of his generation, but became convinced he was a superstar and began a long descent through increasingly slick and shallow production, songs, and persona and is now reduced to crooning oldies a la Harry Connick Jr. in a gruff, hoarse voice that retains none of the expressiveness and command it once had. Sad. Here we have a relic of the final days of the excellent band and musicians which he fronted throughout his salad days, and in a lot of ways never recovered from leaving them behind, the Faces. Sadly sans original bassist and songwriter and heart/soul of the group Ronnie Lane who had already moved on, sick of Rod's ego. Still, having never been privileged to see the Faces perform, it was good to get to view this- despite the terrible picture quality (full of visual noise, scratches, and such plus jumpy cutting) and the dismaying spectacle of Rod getting all glammy as he preens and struts and shakes his ass constantly. The camera guy doesn't help, by zooming in on it incessantly. The band, though almost done with each other, was still tight, especially guitarist Ron Wood (honestly, he's been wasted, and I'm not referring to chemical input, in the Stones) and keyboardist Ian McLagan, who shows a lot more personality and humor onstage than I expected. Rod and Co. have a lot of fun with a group of gentlemen string musicians, who are set up at one end of the stage for a few songs and add a lot in accompaniment. Keith Richards wanders onstage at various points and joins in on a rocking version of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller" (which appeared in studio form, sans Richards, a few months earlier on Rod's solo Smiler LP), and a couple of other covers from Rod's solo albums- "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "Twistin' the Night Away". It's kinda odd that there is only one proper Faces song represented in this show- the infectious 1975 single "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing, or Anything", and the rest is either songs from Rod's solo LPs or Wood's solo LP at the time, I've Got My Own Album to Do. If there was a lot of rancor, it's not evident- everyone seems to be having a good time, and often works up a great rocking head of steam, even when wading through what appears to be a metric ton of confetti in the last third of the concert. I keep hoping that somewhere out there footage exists of the Faces, with Ronnie Lane, in concert and someday someone will see fit to release it and we can see the band at its peak. I guess this will have to do till then, and while it could have been better, it could have been a lot worse. B+

We all have them- films that were constantly mentioned and referred to in our childhood, and were shown fairly often on TV and other places, and the titles of which became part of the lexicon, but we never got around to seeing them. This is one of those films for me. Seems as if this was always on TV, and I was always seeing it mentioned in print, but I was never moved to watch- guess preteen me just didn't care too much about the sad fate of Thomas More and the outstanding performance of Paul Scofield as same. However, now that I am presumably an adult, and having recently become interested in viewing performances by Robert (Jaws, Taking of Pelham One Two Three, From Russia With Love) Shaw, I couldn't pass this one up. Unfortunately, Shaw has a lesser role and really only two significant scenes as Henry VIII- this film belongs to Scofield and he's great, giving a nuanced performance...which isn't surprising, given that he performed the role in its original incarnation on Broadway. Well worth watching if you're a fan of good acting. A-

This wasn't anywhere near as funny as I was expecting. Basically a documentary about a filthy joke that comedians tell other comedians when they get together offstage, in which many comics from many backgrounds get an opportunity to discuss and perform. Some are amusing, many aren't, with the only real standouts to me being a guy who illustrated the joke using playing cards, and Bob frigging Saget, who draws doubletakes at the incongruity between his roles on sitcoms and clip shows and the absolute filth he brings in his turn. I could only take talking heads, no matter how clever or entertaining (Steven Wright, Robin Williams, Penn & Teller) they may be in other projects, telling us how "It's not the setup or the punch line that's funny, it's how the teller embellishes it in between" over and over again before my finger began to stray towards the scan button. A novelty, and probably worth viewing once, but I rarely laughed- probably because I'm not inclined to enjoy scatological humor anyway. Caveat emptor. C+

Here's another famous and revered film project that I had never seen, despite being very aware of it when it aired as a TV movie in the late '80s. My good friend Joy kept telling me how much she loves it every time I tried to tell her about Deadwood, so I figured I might as well see where she's coming from. And y'know what? This was an engrossing six or so hours. If you're a fan of great acting, you've got a stellar turn by Robert Duvall as randy cowpoke and ex-Texas Ranger Gus McCrae, and a taciturn Tommy Lee Jones (inexplicably made up to look like Kenny Rogers or Santa Claus) as his associate and ex-Ranger bud Woodrow Call. Retired from trouble-shooting, often literally, they are stagnating on a ranch in the titular dusty Texas town until another former Ranger buddy, Jake Spoon, gives them a glowing report about the wide open spaces in Montana and off they go, driving a large herd of cattle north to sell and finance their dream of a ranch in the high country. Along the way, they encounter, and enter into conflict with, a number of colorful characters including a couple of the most egregiously stereotyped Irishmen you've ever seen, and a surly renegade half-breed, played by Fredric Forrest, with the ridiculous sobriquet of "Blue Duck" (I'd be surly, too, if someone named me Blue Duck), who has a vendetta against McCrae. Watching this after a steady routine of Deadwood for three years now makes it seem somewhat quaint...but honestly, it's as brutally frank in its TV Movie way as its HBO cousin and is thankfully never routine or predictable. I was especially impressed with the script's willingness to unexpectedly kill off characters that are somewhat important to the main story, and I can honestly say that this is the first time I have ever actually been impressed with and enjoyed a performance by Anjelica Huston, who ordinarily leaves me stone cold. And as I said before, you will be in awe of Duvall, who lays it all on the line for six freaking hours and never rings false or cheats the viewer. A-

Take the above UltraViolet review, and substitute Charlize Theron in the appropriate place. For what it's worth, I never was a big fan of the animated version, either, although it was much better than this. All this money, all that imagination- wish someone with some imagination had worked on the script. Still, I love me some Theron, so this isn't a total disaster. For me. YMMV. C+

I've got PLENTY more, believe me, including 2005's King Kong, Wedding Crashers, MirrorMask, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Feeling a little strung out (yes, drugs are tangentially involved, but not those drugs, thanks for asking) and under the weather tonight, plus I got my DCBS box so I'm currently working my way through another (bigger) stack of comics. So, another night of inconsequential posts (yeah, I know, how is that different?), I'm afraid. But I do have a higher-profile gig than I'm accustomed to coming up over the weekend, so stay tuned for that, plus I'll probably inflict a reviewing frenzy on all y'all sometime soon as well as a result of all that reading. Anyways, in the meantime why not go read this excellent interview with the amazing colossal Richard Sala, creator of the nifty Rasputin pic you see above? Credit where credit is due dept.: Ganked from the Flog LJ feed entry.
It's become a sadly recurring thing- Tom Spurgeon puts out a Five for Friday entry solicitation, I get all het up and write something for it, email it to and days later, I check the site and lo and behold...several entries, none of which are mine. Sigh.

Anyway, Five for Friday #85, "Name a comic and then the person, place, thing, or event that that comic always makes you think of" was a good one, and I hate to see my labor (ha) go to waste, so here was my response.

1. Thriller #7 - Sitting outside in the parking lot of the obstetrician's office reading this as my wife was inside getting a checkup as we awaited the birth of my daughter a few weeks later on August 6.

2. Amazing Adventures #34 - I read this one as I sat outside the front of my high school building, waiting for the coach to open up the door so we could go in and start practice. I got so caught up in the story that I didn't hear when he finally did open the door, and was late! I had to run laps, and it was all Craig Russell and Don McGregor's fault!

3. Marvel Spotlight #18 - There was one house where we all hung out as teens, the town doctor's (who had four sons, three close to our age). It was just down the road from the Jr. Foods store where I bought many great comics off their spinner rack, and for some reason I remember the day I bought this one and brought it back to that house to read it. Hot summer day. This particular book made a Son of Satan fan out of me...

4. Phantom Stranger #24 - Rivertown Records in Louisville, sadly no longer in existence, where I bought a ton of used vinyl back in 1975-76. They also carried used comics for a while, and this was one I bought there...and it never fails to bring the place back in my memory.

5. Marvel Graphic Novel #13 - Starstruck. I took it with me in 2000 to meet Mike Kaluta at a convention in Louisville, and got him to autograph it.

If anyone wishes to add their own, my comments box is open and eager to receive your ministrations!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Went to my LCS today, with the intention of picking up the final installment of Steve Englehart's JLA Detroit opus (JLA: Classified #25), and heaven help me if I didn't kinda look over the racks of comics that came out the last couple of weeks...and my eye rested on the latest issue of CHECKMATE- #4, to be precise. And suddenly, despite my staunch resolve to limit my exposure to all the misbegotten spinoffs of Identity Fiasco (and the wretched Secret Six #1 certainly didn't weaken my resolve), I had a tiny flashback to the two early issues of the sadly missed Chase comic, in which she joined a Suicide Squad group on a mission...and I impulsively snatched up not only #4, but #'s 1 and 3 as well. Typically for my LCS, they didn't have a copy of #2. Not only that, but in news that will gladden Wil Pfiefer's mercenary little heart, I decided I was a tad hasty in dropping Catwoman after Pete Woods left, so I grabbed a set of the issues that have come out since then! And not only that- I also picked up a copy of the new Astro City special, despite the fact that I had pretty much decided to wash my hands of AC after the lackluster Dark Age series of a while back. I blame the Alex Ross cover, a nice pulp magazine pastiche. Finally, I got my copy of Leading Man #1, which I had put in my folder a couple of weeks ago (I'm not a regular holds customer anymore, but they were nice enough to let me maintain a folder there so I could stash stuff I wanted to buy later) since I got a advance b&w comp from Oni and had already read it, but I haven't received anything from Oni in ages so I was uncertain if I'd get an actual full-color printed copy- and I liked Leading Man enough to pick it up from DCBS on a regular basis and didn't want to miss #1. Clear? Explain it to me, please.

But I didn't go totally nuts- all I walked out of the store with was Checkmate #1, the Astro City and Leading Man, plus the JLA: Classified. I put the rest back to await the next sidewalk sale (August 5, I believe) when I can get these books at 25% off. And don't ask me what I thought of Checkmate just yet- I haven't read it. But I will, soon, my pretties, soon.

And that, boys and girls, is my Comics Shop adventure for today. You may now resume normal activities.

Oh- and yes, I know Shadowpact is another spawn of IC...but it's got Phantom Stranger! And Ragman! And Nightmaster! And the Enchantress, albeit in a terrible new "modern" costume. I couldn't help myself.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Boom Boom! Out go the lights!

Sorry, Pat Travers flashback there. What? You don't know...? Oh. I never was much of a fan either, but he did a well-known cover of the song of that title. Couldn't resist.

Anyway, I got a clutch, a gaggle, a small plethora of Boom! comics the other day, and here's what I thunk.

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. Dematteis; A: Joe Abrahams ($3.99)

Sometimes I suspect that Giffen & DeMatteis' inspiration, back when the bwah was first conceived in the 1980's, was Neil Simon- whose fast and funny snappy patter, full of one-liners, sometimes was echoed in the back and forth between Booster and Beetle and Guy and co. There's been a fair amount of that in Hero Squared so far, you bet...but this issue another inspiration rears his balding head...Woody Allen. I couldn't help but think of Allen's constant riffs on his neuroses and insecurities as I read this, the "All-Therapy" issue, and like Allen, somehow K & J manage to milk a lot of laughs out of the situation as Milo and...well, Milo have a sit-down with Milo A's shrink and rarely does what is essentially a talking heads story (no, not Dave Byrne) flow as smoothly as this one does. Bonus points for not giving us the ending that I was convinced was coming. Abrahams, for his part, has the thankless task of drawing all these heads (battling with the word balloons for panel dominance), and he does a fine job, getting more expressive every time out. Hero Squared remains one of the most plain ol' enjoyable books from any publisher. A-

S: Keith Giffen, Alan Grant; A: Rafael Albequerque ($3.99)

Hey! Where'd Raul Lyra go? This time out, we get another unknown-to-me, Rafael (By the time I get to) Albequerque on art and he's not bad- not as loose and sprawling as Lyra, and his figure drawings look a bit more in-proportion...that is, when they're supposed to be. Otherwise, status quo as Harm continues to track down and eliminate, one by one, the escaped interplanetary felons that are wreaking havoc here on Earth. This time, he spends most of the issue in battle with Brune, the big bag of gas which is Non to Dak Moyra's Zod and Ayoma Skyver's Ursa, and the small cast of Earth people gets a bit more of the spotlight. Despite some intrusive exposition- characters calling each other by full names in normal conversation, that sort of thing- this is still an all-around solid sci-fi/action thriller. B+

S: Joe Casey; A: Julia Bax ($3.99)

Damn it, I kinda liked this, which totally eliminates the obvious pun I was considering using: "Avoid this like the PLAGUE!" Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Anyways, this is espionage highjinks with a super-hero flavor; S.H.I.E.L.D.-like superspy organization S.L.A.S.H. (Does that make this slash fiction? Just wondering) comes into conflict with superspy not-so-good guy Black Plague, who wears a costume that is totally different from the one on the uncharacteristically straightforward Dave Johnson cover, over some sort of tech...and oh yeah, organized crime is involved too! On top of that, we get interludes with a couple of old fellows who apparently were once spandex adversaries earlier, as they play chess and reminisce. Of course, there's more than meets the eye there as well. Casey sure is spinning a lot of plates here, and this should be a mess, but it actually reads just fine and is just interesting enough to make me want to see where he goes with it. All this is illustrated by another new-to-me artist whose style reminds me a LOT of Archie Legion-era Jeffrey Moy; and like Moy's stuff, one gets a bit annoyed with all the baby faces but there's enough storytelling chops in evidence to keep from impeding the flow. I've read better, but I've read much, much worse. B

S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: "Chee" ($2.99)

My mom always said, "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything" and I suppose that applies to comics reviews as well. I will note in passing that this is now, according to the cover, "Second Wave"- apparently we've lost the "War of the Worlds" designation. By #7, I fully expect this to be titled Wave. Or perhaps Second. D+

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sending out a Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to TREVOR VON EEDEN, Green Arrow and Batman artist extraordinaire. Oh yeah, and there's that Thriller comic from a long time ago, too...
Check out this eight-page preview of Rick Veitch's early 80's masterpiece, Abraxas and the Earthman!

Veitch has done many fine, excellent even, things since this, but Abraxas is a heady mix of wild-ass ideas, action, metaphysics, psychology, and adventure, all couched in a Moby Dick-ian premise, that I don't think he's topped since- and that includes Brat Pack, Maximortal, and his Swamp Thing run, all of which I liked quite a bit. The coloring looks really nice here, too, although I don't have my old Epics handy to compare.

And since I still have those issues, in which Abraxas was serialized, I'm not sure if I want to drop the cash for the new collection. I suppose it's too late to order it from DCBS, but perhaps they'll have it in backlist stock. I'll have to ponder.

Anyway, thanks to the Mighty Jog for the heads-up!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

There have been several interesting (and plenty not-so) announcements coming from Comic-Con (aka "Nerd Prom" to those internet pundits of a snarkier bent...and judging by the live report I watched on the G4 network last night, I can't really dispute that), but this one has piqued my interest the most. Apparently Marvel intends to put out a special issue that will present what would have been Fantastic Four #102, but instead got chopped up and blended into #108, which came after Jack Kirby had bolted for the not-so-greener pastures of National Periodical Publications. Amazingly, the original pencilled pages, done as Kirby had one foot out the door, still survive and the thinking is to get someone to ink and color them (may I suggest Mike Allred, if Joe Sinnott isn't able/available?) and have Stan re-dialogue them (I'm not sure if this is such a good idea- Stan hasn't written credible dialogue since, oh, 1969). The Newsarama piece goes on to say that it will be released as "... a double-sized special, which will include the newly reconstructed version of the story, John Morrow's article about the lost issue illustrated with the unlinked Kirby pencils to the story, and a reprint of FF #108, so people can see how some of the material wound up being used."

It's funny- I was all of 11 years old when #108 hit the stands; and as such my buying habits were inconsistent and dependant on the whims of my parents, who gave me money to do so. So apparently I didn't buy an issue of FF from #93 until #109, over a year later...and while I'd seen the "Kirby is Coming!" announcements over at DC, it didn't occur to me that this meant he wouldn't be doing FF anymore. Naive kid, you know, plus we didn't have the all-pervasive comics media coverage we have now back in Antediluvian 1970. Anyway, for some reason I decided to buy #109 with my barely-earned allowance, and was a bit disappointed the Kirby was no longer drawing it. I liked the story OK, even that Nega (formerly Mega-, but without the blue helmet and robot dog he had in his video game, hee hee)-Man guy...but Buscema's FF just looked weird (I preferred him much, much more on Silver Surfer and Avengers. Still do.) Apparently I wasn't so disappointed that I dropped FF completely, however; a glance at the GCD FF page for this period shows me that I bought #'s 113, 114, and amazingly, 116-119 (four issues in a row!) before I stopped becoming a semi-regular purchaser of the World's Greatest Comics Magazine for what was apparently a hell of a long time- I'm thinking my next one was 1977's #177, thanks to its George Perez pencil art, Perez being a fresh up-and-comer then (certainly fresher than the Ron Wilsons and the like that had been illoing FF previously) and therefore interesting to l'il ol' visual-oriented me. By then, I had met my good bud Dave Puckett (who has decided to pull the plug on his own Elmo's Junction blog, much to the detriment of the Comics Blogosphere), had learned what a "comic collector" was and what he or she did, and had proceeded down that merry ol' road to ruin. Aw, I kid. feelin' all nostalgic and stuff on this early Sunday morning. Tamam Shud! Face Front, True Believers! Imperius Rex!

Anyway, short story long, I am very interested in how this proceeds, especially if they get a sympathetic inker, and will most likely be picking this up fer shur.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The cover to Manifest Eternity #5, by Dustin Nguyen; and one of the alternate covers from the most recent (relatively speaking, of course) Dirty Pair miniseries, by Adam Hughes. Click to see 'em bigga. A wise man once said, "Creativity is the art of disguising your sources." With that in mind, I couldn't help but notice a certain...similarity.
What I bought and what I thought, July 8-July 17.

S/A: Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics, $4.95)

As usual, the main attraction here is a new Buddy Bradley story, and Bagge doesn't disappoint on that score as we revisit the unfortunate Stinky Brown, or what's left of him anyway. The rest is hit-and-miss: a Biker story that seems twice as long as it is, lotsa Bat Boy strips that I read while standing in line at the supermarket, an amusing sports wife story, a not-bad Matrix satire, and a pretty good illustrated reminisce by Alice Cooper that I could swear I've read in prose form somewhere else before. Whether or not this is worth five bucks to you is a whole 'nother thing. B

S: Paul Dini; A: J.H.Williams III (DC, $2.99)

Well, it's not much of a mystery- if you blink you'll miss the only appearance, before the end, of the bad guy and that kinda comes across as a bit of a cheat- but Dini keeps it no less interesting through his usual solid pacing and dialogue. Williams is simply Williams- always a joy to behold. If he comes back, I'll continue to buy but Dini combined with an uninspiring artist doesn't exactly coerce me to part with my hard-earned three bucks. Unless it's Jingle Belle. A-

S: John Arcudi, Mike Mignola A: Guy Davis (Dark Horse, $2.99)

The Kate Corrigan subplot doesn't get advanced this time out, but we still get more from the round-table discussion back at B.P.R.D. HQ, this time from Liz Sherman and Abe Sapiens. Abe's has Hellboy in it, as well as a cameo from Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson character from Fargo, and is a kinda sad tale of an encounter with a wendigo that has a decidedly downbeat resolution- as is the norm for our Abe these days. This issue kinda spun its wheels a bit, but it was still good enough and was drawn by Guy Davis, always a strong plus. A-

Various artists (Dark Horse, $0.25)

Dark Horse commemorates its anniversary by giving us this book of pinups, in which artists known for this DH property or that does a rendition of another past or present DH artist's main character. Thus we get Adam (Ghost) Hughes drawing Mignola's Hellboy, Doug (The Mask) Mahnke doing Art Adams' sadly-missed Monkeyman and O'Brien, Frank (Sin City, of course) Miller doing Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, and so on. Most are pretty good, some not so; some choices are just odd: Sergio Aragones' Conan, for example, looks too much like Groo the Wanderer to take seriously, and while it's a neat idea (I suppose), Tony (Sock Monkey) Millionaire's Tarzan looks like Homer Simpson's nuclear power plant co-worker Lenny Leonard. But hey, it's got a great Tom Yeates Escapist illo, and Adams does a nice Ghost (a character whose appearance I've always liked a lot more than the execution, if you'll excuse the expression) sure, it's well worth the quarter. B

S: Gary Whitta; A: Ted Naifeh (Image, $4.99)

The further adventures of the Grim Reaper's young son, who jumps at the chance to take a summer internship at the old man's office and soon winds up in a Brazil-ian scenario. Meanwhile, his bizarre friends go to camp, and of course get more than they bargain for. So far, so good, as Whitta cheerfully applies sitcommery into this oddball scenario, and Naifeh provides more outstanding art. Between this and Polly and the Pirates, I'm coming to expect his work every month! A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Tony DeZuniga (DC, $2.99)

A couple of issues back, DeZuniga made a triumphant return to the character he's most associated with (when people associate him at all). This time, however, he shoots himself in the foot by making a disjointed, rambling Graymiotti script even more incoherent. Maybe we just better turn the page and move on to next issue... C-

S: B. Clay Moore; A: Steven Griffin (Image, $2.99)

Would you believe it's worth the wait? Of course, it helps that I'm not one to grouse when a title's tardy- I'm content to bide my time and let the creators create...and if I'm committed to the title, then I'll just be happy when it does finally appear. That said, this long-awaited ending was kind of a fait accompli, and didn't quite pack the punch of the last mini's resolution. Still, it's always great to read the interaction between Byrd, Mo and Kahami- Moore makes them real and is outstanding at essaying their dynamic- and this as a whole was lively and fun. And Griffin outdoes himself on art- his facial expressions are nine times out of ten spot on and his coloring is as good as it gets. Sure, I wish it could come out more often too...but this haoli can be patient. A-

S: Rick Remender; A: Eric Nguyen (Image, $2.99)

Unremarkable, holding-pattern-feel issue, with an admittedly surprising character death, which brings the original artist back for an encore...this time with a style that's even sloppier than the one he used originally, and not to his (or our)advantage. I'm still interested in this premise, and the title character is also still intriguing in her non-glamorous way, but something extraordinary is going to happen soon or I'll soon be e-stranged. C+

S: Geoff Darrow, Andy & Larry Wachowski, A: Darrow (Burlyman, $3.50)

The Cowboy travels through the belly of a giant monster, and fends off repeated attacks by a huge shark, a vehicle for the bodiless head he's been scrapping with for three issues now. Again, light story, and lots of insanely detailed Darrow art, and admiring the panels is what gets the reader through despite the totally static feel of the narrative as a whole. I wish I could tell you that I'm perfectly willing to adopt my Hawaiian Dick Zen-like patience stance with this, but I'm afraid I'm getting a bit restless. It's not that clever. Still, this issues ending offers hope, so stay tuned, kids! B+

100 BULLETS 74
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

A couple of unexpected plot twists (the fate of the Nagle twins, and the new Minuteman) gets this arc over and makes it a keeper. Sporting a great Dave Johnson cover, a 50's paperback/noir pastiche with hints of Russian Constructivism and certainly his best in a while. And of course, Risso just kills. One of these days I'm going to dig out the 73 previous issues and have myself a rereading session. A-

S: Steven Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Here's another title which is getting more disappointing with each successive issue. Between this, Testament, and Loveless, it hasn't exactly been a banner year for Vertigo, if you ask me. As I said last time, this wants to be a little bit of everything to everybody, and by steadfastly refusing to adopt a tone and live with it, it winds up being nothing to anyone. Becky Cloonan is still doing great stuff, and I really want to stick around to see how this whole business with Adam Chamberlain's dead girlfriend turns out...but I'm not sure how much more coffin-humping I'm willing to endure until then. C+

S: Peter Gillis; A: Mike Saenz (AiT/PlanetLar, $14.95)

Ah, it's the unexpected return of the comic that was always guaranteed to cue up that Stones song in my head every time I'd spy a copy on the racks of my LCS. You know, "Shadoobie- Shatter, Shatter". Heh. Unfortunately, I passed on actually purchasing the comic every single time because it just didn't grab me. The art, as I now rely upon my ever-fuzzier memories of 1984, just looked a little too grainy and fuzzy and sterile for my tastes...and we all know how much stock I've always placed on that crucial first impression, art-wise, that usually makes or breaks the chances of my picking up any given title. So, I've never read this. And you know what? While the art is still mighty sterile, it improves a bit in black and white and is, when examined through my ever-fuzzier eyesight and theoretically more mature and adult perspective, is actually quite good- almost always solid anatomically as well as from a storytelling viewpoint too. And the mind boggles when one takes into consideration that this was done on a prehistoric Apple computer- the amount of time spent alone gives me pause. I remember the first Mac I ever used, back in 1985 (permit me to digress a bit)- it was an Macintosh Classic, used as a Crosfield scanner interface, and I used to enjoy messing around with the desktop, rearranging the pixels to make weird shapes and so on. And that was about the limit that it could do, since it possessed a whopping 134KB of RAM! I can't imagine doing a sustained quantity of work on something even as "advanced" as a IIci, for example. So that's a hell of an accomplishment, in my book. Heck, I can't even do four pages the old-fashioned way! Anyway, with the benefit of 20 plus years of hindsight, this stacks up as a pretty darn good, even somewhat prescient, Philip Dick/William Gibsonesque thriller- rarely predictable, not as dated as you'd think, and the good stretches make up for the occasional slow ones- always a hazard when publishing as an ongoing monthly (or was it bi-monthly? I forget). I can't say if I would have liked it as much at age 24, even if I had decided to buy it on a regular basis, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to reevaluate it now. B+

S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Now here's the rare recent Vertigo title that's getting better as it goes along. Familarity is breeding interest rather than contempt, in this case anyway. I wish I had a better sense of what's exactly at stake in this whole Matty tug-of-war scenario, but I definitely want to see how it resolves itself. And that's something, especially since I was ready to drop about three issues ago. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Sean McManus (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

How can Willingham be so smart over here, then turn around and give us dull hackwork like Shadowpact? Who knows, but as a follow up to last issue's events it's a bit of a letdown- but it's no less readable as this issue's spotlight characters- Cinderella, the Mouse Police, etc., get to enact a espionage thriller with shapechanging magic and castles in the clouds populated by giants, and darned if it isn't a engaging romp. McManus fills in, reuniting with Willingham (I'm sure you remember the Thessaly minis, right? Right?) and fitting right in. He's not as polished as Buckingham and Leialoha, but he'll do in a pinch. I'm not that crazy about the Buckingham/Leialoha team anyway. A-

S: Steve Englehart; A: Tom Derenick, Mark Farmer (DC, $2.99)

Not a disaster, but not all that great either as we watch the Detroit League and the various Royal Flush Gang members run around in the burning woods for page after page, Aquaman in hot (heh, I made pun) pursuit. On the positive side, there's a nice flashback for Vixen, and once in a while Englehart's dialogue scans like the Englehart of old, which gives hope for the future. Plus, it's still nicely drawn in imitation Alan Davis style (and I swear, once in a while, I see a Von Eeden-influenced panel or two). On the negative side, all this angst and fire and running around gets mighty tedious, and I still think that this is yet another two-issue story that's being p-u-l-l-e-d out, taffy-like, into four. Oh Gypsy, the things I do for you...C+

BEST OF THE (2) WEEKS? Probably Hawaiian Dick, although a couple of others (Death, Jr., B.P.R.D.)are right there too.

WORST: Definitely Jonah Hex, but I've been enjoying the title as a whole up till now so let's just hope that this is an aberration.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Like Olaf of the Blackhawks always used to say, "Ay ban checking out the Marvel solicits for October!" Py jiminy! And lo and behold, there are several interesting things coming from the House that Jack Built- to wit:

DR. STRANGE: THE OATH #1 (of 5) looks so damn good (there's a three-page preview on CBR's page, link above) that it's almost like they're trying to make up for foisting Strange upon us. Hell, it looks so good that I might not even care that Vaughan is writing it!

AGENTS OF ATLAS also continues, #3 will feature another Bill Everett creation, Marvel Boy. Doesn't look like he's going to exactly be heroic and inspiring, though. Oh well, all's fair!

I really wish HEROES FOR HIRE had a different artist, 'cause I dig Misty and Colleen. Oh well, c'est la. Maybe I'll look at a trade if we get one.

MARVEL MILESTONES: LEGION OF MONSTERS, SPIDER-MAN & BROTHER VOODOO. Milestone, eh? Milestones are cheap these days, aren't they? Maybe if they had included the Colan-illo'd Strange Tales stories starring Bro V. This collection, which at least features a past-his-prime but still enjoyable Frank Robbins-drawn Legion of Monsters tale, probably isn't worth the four bucks.

I have yet to see a poor Jo Chen cover. I've been curious about RUNAWAYS, but I didn't want to get one of those digest-size trades of the first series and fancy going on a back issue hunt even less. Besides, there's the Vaughan factor.

I've always thought Chris Bachalo was an excellent artist who got a bit too clever for the room around the time of Steampunk. I like this cover, but not even Bachalo and Carey can get me to sample a rank-and-file X-book.

I am as big a fan of the Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan character as you'd ever want to know, but I won't touch HELLSTORM: SON OF SATAN #1 (of 5) with a ten foot Netheranium trident. However, if you, like me, prefer to kick it old school (as the young'uns say), there's this: ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR VOL. 1 TPB, which is a Essential Son of Satan in everything but name. Guess it's because Ghost Rider and Satana, among others, is in there too...but this reprints practically every appearance of the character worth having, save the outstanding Warren Ellis 1990's run. This contains some of my absolute favorite Steve Gerber work, in which he was in full weirdness mode. There's also the Gerber-scripted Marvel Spotlight #'s 18 & 19, which was a two-part Exorcist-inspired action jam (Daimon's day job was as a professional exorcist, y'know) that Gene Colan drew the, if you'll excuse the expression, hell out of. Also for the hell of it, here's Gil Kane's cover for #19, one of my all-time faves.

I remember picking up the big crossover event of 1976, which is being reprinted as DR. STRANGE VS. DRACULA: THE MONTESI FORMULA TPB, back in the day, probably off the spinner rack at Jr. Foods. Of course, it was easy to do so because I was a regular reader of both Tomb of Dracula and Doctor Strange at the time. Haven't read it in decades, but as I recall it worked pretty well, all things considered, and fit in nicely with both title's ongoing storylines. The resolution was a bit underwhelming, though, I believe. Aaah, don't take my word for it, read it for yourself.

Of course, there are my regular pickups: POWERS, DAREDEVIL, and NEXTWAVE.

Almost forgot THIS! Brubaker, Phillips- that's pure crack, son- the uncut funk!

And that, kids, concludes my latest attempt to get out of writing reviews look at Marvel's October solicits. I might do DC's, if I can find enough there that piques my interest. My, the times are a-changin, aren't they, Mr. Jones?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yeah, I know. No comics reviews, or movie comments either. They're in draft status, I'll have you know. Sadly, not much energy lately, except to sit and stare at the tube or post pithy comments on other people's blogs. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's other things. Who the heck knows.

I did watch Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter tonight- hoo boy. Words fail me, as usual.

Anyway, I'll try to get back in the saddle soon- in the meantime, if you haven't already, go check out the free online preview of SciFi Network's animated Amazing Screw-On Head. I did so last Sunday, and I didn't think it was too bad. Well, the animation was a little fussy and stiff in that animated Spawn or Boondocks way, the writers just don't have the knack for deadpan absurdity like Mignola does, and it pales when compared to the original one-shot, but it did have its moments and it is downright odd to see Mignola's style animated. Pretty good voice casting, too, although Molly Shannon didn't really bring much to the table as evil vampiress Patience.

Maybe they shoulda got Murielle Varhelyi.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Whilst perusing the October DC solicits over at PopCultureShock (psst- Guy, Ronee- someone needs to relink the cover images; when you click on them nothing shows), I noticed yet another upcoming Showcase Presents collection which has me somewhat a-twitter: the SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER VOL. 1 TP.

Huh? You say- war comics? But JB- you've never written very much at all about war comics! And it's true, except for some of those old EC and Warren stories, as well as Marvel's Sgt. Fury, I've never cared for the genre at all. But the issues of Star-Spangled War Stories that featured the Soldier as written by David Michelinie and illustrated by Gerry Talaoc (#183 to #200-something, IIRC- I don't have those anymore, damnit) were another exception. Most people remember Michelinie, if at all, for his Iron Man run with Bob Layton in the 80s, and a host of mediocre, forgettable Spider-Man tales...but it was on SSWS (and, to a lesser extent on Swamp Thing, replacing Len Wein on the first series) that he first cut his teeth and wrote some great dramatic tales, featuring the master-of-disguise and all-around ass-kicker Soldier. Usually these involved some sort of twist brought about by his adoption of this identity or that, almost always behind enemy lines- but Michelinie usually always could bring it home with a revelation at the end that was often downright touching or affecting in some way, and to me, this elevated the Soldier's exploits above the run of the mill battle epics of DC's "Make War No More" era. Talaoc, for his part, was never better than on the Soldier; the Filipino's loose style emphasized strong action, and he rarely disappointed on that score. Plus, he was always able to enhance Michelinie's moving story resolutions with mood-enhancing and solid staging.

I've always thought this run was among some of the best comics I'd ever read...but for some reason I didn't include it in the comics I kept when I sold my original collection, much to my regret. And it's entirely possible that I'll read these now, as a theoretical adult, and wonder what the hell I saw in them. But the important thing is that I'll get the chance to reread them, as well as earlier stories by some mighty good creators such as Frank Robbins, Archie Goodwin, Joe Kubert and others, most of which I've never read since I didn't start picking it up until well into Michelinie and Talaoc's run.

Anyway, it's great that DC is revisiting its 70's stuff, and while I still wish it was in color, it's OK. Better than hunting down all those back issues!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


A new discovery for me is the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive project blog, which features a treasure trove of great art. Among the highlights:

Two incredible, and incredibly funny, Powerhouse Pepper stories by Basil Wolverton!

A collection of George Petty Ridgid Tools calendar art!

Colorful Mexican movie posters by Ernesto Garcia Cabral!

Children's book art by 40's-50's Disney concept animator Mary Blair, part one, and part two.

Longtime favorite Playboy cartoonist Doug Sneyd (also Phil Interlandi)!

And that's just a few of the great posts they have there. You can go to any archived month and find interesting reading.

Also, I spent some time looking stuff up on YouTube, and found some great music-related video clips, like this:

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band performing "The Man in the Jar"! Also: the first part of "Man in the Jar", "Vambo"; "Delilah", and "Give My Compliments to the Chef". Holy mother of God, did I love the SAHB.

Ringo Starr performing "Only You", with Ed Wood spaceships and a Michael Rennie in Day the Earth Stood Still spacesuit, on the roof of the Capitol Records building with Harry Nilsson, smoking in his bathrobe!

A 1974 TV commercial, sporting Cal Schenkel artwork, for Frank Zappa's Apostrophe(') album!

The lovely Mary Hopkin performing "Goodbye", a song written by Paul McCartney and her second album's first single!

McCartney and the 1972-era Wings performing "Mary Had a Little Lamb"! The poster says it was from the Flip Wilson Show, but I think it also aired on the James Paul McCartney TV special which isn't available on DVD to my knowledge.

The Beatles perform the play-within-a-play from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream!

Jethro Tull's short film "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"! This one was shown for a while during Tull's A Passion Play tour, usually in the middle so the band could take a break. That's where this audio also appeared on the album. I saw this on a Tull DVD a while back, and of course I'm biased because Passion Play is one of my favorite albums- but this is Pythonesque and imaginative, and the choreography, especially at the end and especially involving bassist/narrator Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, is great.

OK, that's all I have for now. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, July 14, 2006

My new comics box came today, so I have some reading to do. In the meantime, let me share something with you, that readers of my LJ might remember: I have a teeny little attraction to/interest in W.I.T.C.H., fostered by seeing the Disney animated series on Sunday mornings.

Of course, I'm sure most of you (well, those that care, that is) know that W.I.T.C.H. is also a series of comics which originated in Italy, and Disney saw enough potential to greenlight a TV show. While I've seen several episodes of that, I had never read one of the comics or collections. However, I have now had an opportunity of sorts thanks to this site, which hosts scans of every issue up #47. Of course, me with the pokey internet connection doesn't always have the patience to wait for the pages to load, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far and I think you might too. I especially liked the art, done in a clear, crisp manga-tinged and Disneyesque style. The scans aren't always top notch, and as always with this sort of thing I have my doubts about the veracity of some of the translations, but that's just being mean and nitpicky.

Go! Check it out! I'll have reviews sometime soon, and a Johnny B Heart Netfilx too.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Here's another series that I wish could have gone on a bit longer. Wonder what Dean Motter's doing these days? The sequel, Aerial Graffiti, was a mild disappointment but that didn't mean I was done with that world!

Update: Oh, here's what Motter's up to these days.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I was all excited because I read the news about the return of one of my favorite comics series of recent memory, Dan Brereton's THE NOCTURNALS, until I came across the words "three oversized hardcover collections" that will feature "all-new material, from stories to connecting sequences...", and once more the wind was taken out of my fanboy pirate ship's sails. But the article also goes on to mention the prospect of a new series, which I'm assuming/hoping won't be hardcover and probably upwards of $35-$50, called "The Sinister Path", and that gives me a glimmer of hope.

I don't think Brereton's ever topped the mix of adventure, imagination, and fun that he gave us with his proper Nocturnals series. Even the spinoffs, which usually featured the Gunwitch (a hulking crack-shot zombie who wears a witch hat with dingle-balls- you can see him above- and carries automatics) or Evening Horror (Wednesday Addams-looking kid with a plastic pumpkin full of supernatural toys, also in the pic), were of high quality.

Now, if they'd just revive Strikeback!...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And now, the story is complete. Thanks to everyone who has linked here over the last few days! And DC lawyers, please don't go after l'il ol' me, who isn't making any money from posting your copyrighted material here for all to read. It's just my belated tribute to one of my absolute favorite artists.

Here, from 1974's House of Secrets #123, is "A Connecticut Ice Cream Man in King Arthur's Court", by Michael (Spectre, Jonah Hex) Fleisher, Russell Carley (the legendary "script continuity" guy) and the late great Alex Toth, and starring Julius Schwartz (I thought it was meant to be a tribute to Phil Silvers, but Toth said otherwise and I guess he would know)as the unfortunate frozen confection salesman. This was from a comic that I bought while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at age 14, and probably the first time I looked at Toth's magnificent work and went "Hmm...this guy is GOOD", even though I had grown up looking at it in not only DC and Warren publications, but CarToons and Saturday morning kidvid. Strange how that sort of thing goes, isn't it? Click on the thumbs above to see them full size.

Thanks a skadillion to Dave Stewart (not this Dave Stewart, although I don't know for sure...) for the gracious gift of this comic, which I sold several years ago.

This story is uf cuss copyright 1974 DC Comics, Inc.

RIP Syd Barrett, that "crazy diamond" of Pink Floyd fame, who died today at age 60. Above is a 1968 pic, if you'd like to see more recent ones go here.

I was just listening to an old Floyd compilation album, Relics, the other day. I've not been the biggest Floyd fan in the world, both pre and post Syd, but there are a fair amount of tunes I like a lot (mostly on Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here), and some of them ("See Emily Play", "Arnold Layne", "Bike") came from the acid-soaked mind of Mr. Barrett, surely one of the strangest cases of burnout and reclusiveness in popular music history. Hope he's found peace.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In which I see fit to opine upon floppy pamphlets of a sequential fictional nature that I have perused from June 25 to July 7.

S: Matt Fraction; A: Gabriel Ba. (Image, $1.99)

A lot better than Freejack, and a tad more coherent than Performance. A little too close to Austin Powers for comfort. That's Casanova, in which the aptly named Fraction (because I don't know if I've ever read anything the man has written that had anything resembling a conventional narrative style- but I freely admit I haven't read a lot of his mainstream stuff) and Gabriel Ba give us Mick Jagger circa 1970 as Diabolik-lite Casanova Quinn, a well-heeled master thief (son of a superspy network head) and bad boy who, when we first encounter him, is trying to pull a jewel heist- but it soon escalates into a stew of metaphysics, Kirbyesque villains and James Bondisms that at first was giving me a headache until about halfway through, when it suddenly kicked in and got pretty interesting. Fraction dances around with his dialogue and plot like a spider on hot asphalt, all the better to cram more stuff in I suppose- and I don't ever know if I'll ever really warm to his style (Filth-mode Grant Morrison is a model of clarity in comparison) but he's come up with a charismatic character and given him a intriguing, if derivative, world (worlds, actually) to play in, so this looks like it could get even better with any luck. In the hands of a lesser artist, this would be hopeless, but Ba is ideally suited to this material- his loose style can stretch to incorporate any sort of madness, it seems. Besides, as with its cousin Fell, the price is right. A-

S: Marc Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Diego Olmos, Fernando Blanco. (DC, $2.99)

It's plain that Andreyko has gotten to the point where he's really comfortable with these characters (then-impending cancellation notwithstanding), because everything proceeds in such smooth and orderly fashion that the reader can get caught up in the flow and poof! Before you know it, you're out of story for this month. I also appreciate that he's gotten to the point where his dialogue sounds more natural. And at the end, tying the ongoing storyline in with the James Robinson Starman mythos smacks of genius even as it makes one wonder what Robinson could have done with Kate Spencer and her backstory. Probably, it would have been just like JSA, before it ran out of steam. So, I am charitably inclined towards this latest chapter, even to the point that I gloss over in my mind how much this all comes across like a WB/UPN drama with spandex (Yeah, yeah, Smallville, not quite- more like The O.C.), and note with amusement (or regret, perhaps) that the apparent DC house style, with its attendant suffocating Photoshoppery, is so prevalent these days that we can get contributions from two different artists and one is hard pressed to tell where one ends and the other begins. The cover stands out by its sheer grace of having someone with an actual style (one derivative of TerryAdam DodsonHughes, but at least it looks good with its digital finish) do it. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Willingham, Wayne Faucher. (DC, $2.99)

Is this what the modern comic book fan really wants from their reading experience? An issue so rote and routine that it comes across like a printbound version of Mortal Kombat, in which two fighters square off, flash their powers, one gets defeated, and on to the next matchup? Dude! Bagman totally pwned Ragman! Maybe Willingham thinks he's giving the kids what they want and may be even trying to ape manga, but manga at its most formulaic is more lively than this depressing exercise in tedium. I'm sticking with this for now because I like DC's supernatural stable, especially the Phantom Stranger, Ragman, and the Enchantress (although her witchy woman outfit was a million times sexier than the drab pseudo-Greek thing Willingham's stuck her in now), plus I'm still interested in how Detective Chimp's character (God help me for typing this sentence) will progress, but the story/price ratio, especially compared to something as jumping as Casanova, is ludicrously out of whack. C

S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary. (Marvel, $2.99)

Another by-the-numbers chapter in which not much happens except stage-setting for the final issue. Perhaps Millar intends to pull something amazing out of his ass for the grand finale, but seeing as how he's steadfastly refused to do anything this time out that smacks of original thought, I wouldn't bet on it. Even so, if we gotta connect the dots, at least we have gorgeous art to make it all go down a lot smoother. And as an old Giant-Man fan from the early 60's (I was a preschooler, sure, but Tales to Astonish #50 was one of my very first comics) It chaps my ass no end to see Henry Pym once more be the co-heavy, the stooge, the sucker, the fall guy. But it would take a little effort to do otherwise, so it comes as no surprise. B+

S: Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier; A: Aragones (DC, $4.99)

Aragones is such a ubiquitous presence in so many media forms that he?s easy to take for granted, and goodness knows I?m guilty, although I've always loved his Mad Marginals, his great work on the DC 70's gothic humor book Plop!, his underrated and excellent co-plotting on Bat Lash in the 60's, Groo the Wanderer of course, and practically everything he's lent his pen and fertile imagination to. But every so often, you get a full dose of his good-natured and deceptively accomplished cartooning and you realize what a treasure he is. Gee, sounds like I'm getting ready to hit him up for money, doesn't it? Anyway, here we get a pleasing variety of subject matter: Sergio's eyebrow-raising account of his one and only encounter with the late Marty (Eye-gor, Young Frankenstein, you remember) Feldman; four amusing twist-ending shorties, one a Western, one a riff on King Kong, one a gangster gag and a Private Eye-thing all of which could have once appeared in Plop!; fascinating account involving the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irishmen that fought and gave their lives for Mexico in the war of 1848, which Aragones uses to provide a gentle, but astute, lesson about the nature of heroism and revisionism of history; a serious telling of a story about Feudal Japan and the price a father pays to buy back his son's life; A goofy Batman story (always gotta have a Batman story, dont'cha know?) co-written by his Groo collaborator Mark Evanier, and a warm and funny account of his first arrival in New York in 1962. Great stuff, especially the autobiographicals, achieved with style, class and a minimum of angst and fuss. It's a damned shame that DC has to can a book which can provide creators with an outlet for work such as this. A

S: Grant Morrison; A: Frank Quitely. (DC, $2.99)

Now, see, Millar and Willingham? This Morrison fella, he's got ideas, you bet! They may be recycled from Weisinger, Bridwell and Kirby, but he knows how to dress 'em up real pretty so they look like new and gets that steady-as-she-goes Quitely guy, no slouch himself in the ideas and vision department, to wrap 'em up all neat-as-you-please. Grant turns his attention to the crazy-as-a-bag-of-squirrels history of Jimmy Olsen, and spins a tale which gives us not only the best version of Jimmy that I've read in a long time (not hard to do, since I'm not a regular Superman reader), but a great examination of the Jimmy/Superman friendship (with a neat little inversion of the status quo), and another look at the P.R.O.J.E.C.T. (what does that stand for, anyway?) and its Willy Wonkaesque head, Mister Q. (Quimper? Invisibles fans?). Love the superheavy gravity world as well. It's funny- as a kid growing up, I was lukewarm to Superman comics, but I always liked Jimmy Olsen, especially those 80-page Giants, full of Elastic Lads, Red-Headed Beatles of 1,000 B.C. and Giant Turtle Olsens. And since this Olsen spotlight is my favorite All-Star Superman to date, it seems that the more things change, the more indeed they stay the same. A

S/A: Ted Naifeh. (Oni, $2.99)

I'm a bit divided about this series- really, there's nothing terribly original about any of it and Naifeh is merely staying within his comfort zone- once more, Naifeh is giving us a young girl protagonist who gets involved in a world of which she knew nothing, and strives to find her place in it and survive as she adapts...just like Courtney Crumrin. All the twee story elements seem to be cadged from Peter Pan, Gilbert & Sullivan, and various other sources, and taken on an individual basis, not a lot really happens in any given issue. This also has the sweet stink of "Please license me for TV and films." But, and I think this is the mark of a great craftsman at the top of his game, Naifeh takes his old new borrowed blue and moody-black pointy-finger art style and constructs it so well that I, for one, have been engrossed in each and look back on the six issues as a whole with satisfaction...and while I'd rather see more Courtney first, I hope he gets back to Miss Pringle's exploits sooner rather than later. This issue: A-. Entire series: A-.

S: Mike Carey; A: Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly. (DC/Vertigo, $3.99)

The conclusion of Carey's consistently outstanding extrapolation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman character is a bit low-key and ultimately unrewarding, especially after last issue's more cathartic ladies-night story...but that doesn't mean this is a failure. I just don't really think that Carey had a really good ending in mind when he started, and never figured one out 70-something issues later. That doesn't diminish his accomplishments one bit. For the last 75 issues, he has constructed a whole universe, filled with fascinating characters (even had Lucifer do the same at one point), and worked Gaiman's essentially one-note portrayal of the Morningstar for all it was worth. I think if fatigue, or ennui, or Marvel's money, hadn't come along, I have no doubt that he wouldn't have continued in this same vein for another seventy-five chapters in an ongoing saga that must have written itself for a fellow as talented as Mike seems to be. This was hardly ever my favorite book in any given month, but it was one I always looked forward to reading and I'll miss it. Of course, if the art had been in the hands of a penciller with more than mediocre ability, and I'm not talking about infrequent fill-in Dean Ormston, I'd probably have been more devoted and I'd be more upset. And that, kids, is my last shot at Peter Gross, a Johnny Bacardi tradition since I started reviewing comics on the ol' DC Comics Message Boards over four years ago. B+

S: Warren Ellis, A: Stuart Immonen. (Marvel, $2.99)

By now, I'm inclined to simply throw up my hands and say "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Ellis is just taking the piss here, as our wonderful Brit friends reportedly like to say, and my inclination is just to sit back, enjoy the crisp, streamlined flow of each chapter and appreciate the four or five good chuckles I get every time out. At least when WE does it, it's clever and funny, as opposed to the likes of Garth Ennis or Frank Miller, who can't seem to rise above condescension, mean-spiritedness, and cynicism. Small beer, perhaps, but a little laughter is never a bad thing in these troubled times. Immonen, for his part, does nothing to spoil the vaudeville. B+.

S: Howard Chaykin, David Tischman. A: David Hahn.

It's not really Hahn's fault that this is has descended into convoluted tedium; his art is as solid in its cleancut prettyboy way as it ever was. The first series had its share of slow spots, but second acts rarely are up to the first and ChayTischkinman seem to be more interested in snark and titillation than giving us focus and interesting characterization. Still, when a naked vampire catfight in a women's prison shower is as forgettable and bland as all the other softcore S&M and sanguinary goings-on, blame must be shared equally. C

S: Steve Englehart; A: Tom Derenick, Mark Farmer (DC, $2.99)

I can recall a time, on the likes of self-created Coyote and corporate-owned Captain Marvel and Avengers, that Englehart used to be capable of amazing complexity, not only in his plotting, which was full of wild and crazy ideas, but with his characterization as well. These days, however, a plot as simple as "Royal Flush Gang attacks Justice League Detroit while they're camping/training in the woods" seems to overwhelm him. This relatively simple storyline just sorta breaks down into a mush of segues and flashbacks and characters popping in and out and while it's not terrible, it's not terribly fun either. Still, it's got Gypsy, so that's a plus for me anyway (whothewhatthe is "Mary the Gypsy"? Is this more of Englehart's pseudo-mystical Scorpio Rose-style BS?), plus I've always kinda liked the idea of the Royal Flush Gang (one of Gardner Fox's many clever creations) so I'm hanging in with Englehart on this. Also, #23, with its Vibe spotlight and somewhat tense forest fire cliffhanger finale, was a lot stronger than #22. The jury's still out. The art team of Derenick and Farmer is not bad- they've both channeled Alan Davis a bit too much for my liking, but once in a while some personality sneaks out and shouts out before ducking back down, and overall manage to tell a good story while trying to color within the lines of the DC coloring book, if you know what I mean. B

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Mike Lark, Steven Gaudiano (Marvel, $2.99)

What a fool I was to doubt Ed Brubaker. Against all odds, he's taken some mighty played-out ingredients and has whipped up a magnificent souffle, saving the best for last with a great final page that promises some good old-fashioned Punisher-style mayhem. Lark and Gaudiano continue to set the standard for understated excellence. Not even a horrible Liefieldesque cover by David Finch, inked by someone with a bizarre glyph-style signature that looks like Goofy wearing his small hat, can ruin this one. Best issue of DD in ages. A

S: Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski; A: Paul Azaceta. (Boom!, $3.99)

Solid continuation of this engrossing story, as Nicholas Dane, still getting used to all the people in his head, stays on the run from not only the government but that sinister Santa Claus Cardinal, a character who's not going to win many friends for Boom! at the Catholic League for sure. We also see more of a Mr. & Mrs. Smith-style assassin couple, who make Brangelina's characters seem as benign as Martin Blank. The one thing that serves as the glue that binds it together is Azaceta's simple-lined but expressionistic art. A-

S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: "Chee" (Boom!, $2.99)

Good news is, "Chee" has done away with the all-pervasive murky gray tones that helped make the last two issues such a slog. The bad news is, it's still a slog. D+

S: Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Mina seems to be gradually sneaking up on a resolution to her interminable debut arc; and truth be told I'm actually getting mildly interested in how it's going to go down. Johnny also gets a new girlfriend of sorts this time out; she's likeable and I hope she stays around for a while. Of course, knowing how it tends to go for John's lady friends, I won't get my hopes up. B+

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting goes out to Richard Starkey MBE, known far and wide as RINGO STARR, Undisputed Master of the Drum Fill.

Just in case you haven't seen it and happen to care, here's last years favorite Ringosong list.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I'm sure that most of you have already seen this at Neilalien's, but I thought this teaser image from the newly announced Doctor Strange series was kewl and I wanted to share. For more, go to Blog@Newsarama, which I always find very informative and highly readable, even if they never link to me. Of course, if I ever posted real content, besides Beowulf, they might, but I digress.

I was really excited about this new Doc series when I saw that the art was by the stellar team of Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez, he of the sexy ink line which was used to great effect on Batgirl Year One and most recently on the otherwise DOA Breach. But then I noticed the writer, which is Mr. Everybody-loves-his-stuff-but-me Brian K. Vaughan. You could just see the wind evaporate from my anticipatory sails. Still, I bought 3 or 4 issues of Breach for Martin and Lopez (sounds like a 40's comedy film team, doesn't it?) and I can see my way clear towards doing the same here.

By the way, click it to see it all bigger and stuff.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I would like to announce that my newest PopCultureShock column is now up and awaiting your viewing pleasure. Its new title: CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE. Reet petite, huh! In it, I cast aspersions upon Casanova 1, All-Star Superman 4, Manhunter 23, Solo 11, and others you've probably read before. Anyways, go, viddy, and comment either here or there.

You may now resume normal activity.
In order to wish you all a happy 4th of July, here are covers of
With commentary!

#109, which was a Lee/Kirby retelling of Cap's origin. Nothing much else to say except I liked the way they had Cap bursting out of the newspaper. The pose is a bit sedate for Kirby at the time.

Two from Jim Steranko's short-lived stint on the Star-Spangled Avenger. The first one (really poor scan, by the way- had to gank these from the Mile High Comics site since the Grand Comics Database is conveniently down) seems like it's missing something; I wonder if Steranko didn't have more stuff in the upper half of the illustration, and Vince Colletta or some other hack didn't remove it so the logo would stand out. Who knows. The more I see original art and scans of same, the more I notice (most often to my dismay) how much tinkering, cutting-and-pasting, and revising was done to all those old classic Marvel covers. You'd think, given the talent involved, that they could run a Kirby or Ditko or Colan or whatever cover as is, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway, I have no idea if that's the case with that first Steranko Cap; I'm just rambling. Lord, I was born a rambling man. I've always liked the mood Jim evokes in that second one- reminds me of that great story he did for Tower of Shadows.

Gene Colan now. Out of all the clasic work that Colan did for the House that Stan and Jack (and Steve) Built, I've always thought his Cap stuff was some of his best, and most overlooked. His loosey-goosey, but always dynamic, style suited the rough-and-tumble, acrobatic world of CA really well. I like the arc of Scorpion's tail, drawing the reader in and making him/her feel the impact. Colan's Scorpion was good- something about the loopy lines of the character's uniform played to Colan's strengths.

I don't necessarily think this is a great cover; seems to be Gil Kane heavily inked by someone, Jim Mooney perhaps. I just remember being excited when I saw this on the rack at age 12 or so. I was all "Holy crap, how's Cap gonna get out of that one?" Oh, the naivete of youth. Anyway, pretty much conveys the gist of this issue's contents, huh!

I didn't buy many issues of Cap after 1974 or so; I did get John Byrne's short-lived stint (I think Steranko lasted longer, actually) which I thought was pretty good. After the early 70's, there followed decades of really anonymous-looking, uninspired, tedious covers, with an occasional good Mike Zeck illo from time to time. I don't think the interiors were much better, although I realize that many are fond of several of the runs, such as Mark Gruenwald's 80's tenure. Jack Kirby did more issues than I thought when he returned to Marvel back around '76-'77; he had some typically gonzo ideas but his approach just didn't really mesh well with the character by that time. I thought it was kinda sad. Anyway, I digress- the above cover is from the Marvel Knights Cap series, which I never bought but kinda admired the iconic renditions of the first dozen or so covers from a distance. Also like the logo by John Hancock, a neat idea that doesn't work so well in practice (doesn't really stand out) but I think it's clever.

Happy Independence Day, everybody. Don't blow a finger off with an M-80 or anything.

PS: Yeah, I know, Tom Spurgeon has already done it, but I had the idea last night, OK?

Monday, July 03, 2006

For Roger:


Sorry, couldn't narrow it down, and "The Great Twenty-Eight" just sounds too cool for school. Just ask Chuck Berry. Anyway, here's my list of personal favorite Beach Boys tunes. Not what I think are the best, mind you, just the ones that are special to me. I'm leaving a whole lot of great songs off this list, which goes like a little something like this....

SURFER GIRL (from Surfer Girl)

IN MY ROOM (from Surfer Girl)

LITTLE DEUCE COUPE (from Little Deuce Coupe)

ALL SUMMER LONG (from All Summer Long)

WHEN I GROW UP (TO BE A MAN) (from The Beach Boys Today)

SHE KNOWS ME TOO WELL (from The Beach Boys Today)

YOU'RE SO GOOD TO ME (from Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!))

LET HIM RUN WILD (from Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!))

WOULDN'T IT BE NICE (from Pet Sounds)

GOD ONLY KNOWS (from Pet Sounds)

CAROLINE, NO (from Pet Sounds)

GOOD VIBRATIONS (from Smiley Smile)

BREAKAWAY (1969 single appears on Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys)

DARLIN' (from Wild Honey)

FRIENDS (from Friends)

DO IT AGAIN from (from 20/20)


DIERDRE (from Sunflower)

ALL I WANNA DO (from Sunflower)


FEEL FLOWS (from Surf's Up)

YOU NEED A MESS OF HELP TO STAND ALONE (from Carl and the Passions: So Tough)

ALL THIS IS THAT (from Carl and the Passions: So Tough)

IT'S OK (from 15 Big Ones)

GOOD TIME (from The Beach Boys Love You)

HONKIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY (from The Beach Boys Love You)

THE NIGHT WAS SO YOUNG (from The Beach Boys Love You)

GOOD TIMIN' (from L.A. (Light Album))

SUMAHAMA (from L.A. (Light Album))

SURF'S UP (Brian solo vocal, demo version from the Good Vibrations box)

And honest to God, folks, I liked Holland OK, but the only track which I really wanted to include was the somewhat overlong "Trader", and I regretfully cut it.

So there you have it! Comments?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

No reviews yet, or at least here. I did write several yesterday and today that will appear first on PopCultureShock, in my review column with a new spiffy name. What will that name be, you ask? Stay tuned.

So what do I want, you may also be asking. I suppose that in order to maintain my good standing as a card-carrying member of the Comics Blogosphere (U.S. Pat. Pend.), that I should put my two cents' worth in on the ongoing discussions at hand, hence the Comic-Con post last night, and this other controversy: Diamond's apparent jobbing of Dan Nadel's PictureBox, Inc., specifically their refusal to distribute a clutch of PB,I.'s comic book offerings. Here's Nadel's take, and here's Tom Spurgeon's summary and opinion on the matter. I tend to fall in with the Spurge- it doesn't set a good precedent for Diamond to summarily dismiss a company that has what seems to be as good a pedigree as PB, I., which apparently extends beyond fly-by-night floppy pamphlet publishing into fine art and design, even Wilco's A Ghost is Born CD package. Of course, Diamond is a business like any other, and they would assert, I'm sure, that they have to have some sort of standard- a line in the sand if you will- and while they wish that they could distribute anything and everything, sometimes they have to say no for reasons that need not be disclosed.

See why I could never be on a debate team? I always see both sides of these things.

Anyway, perhaps Diamond should rethink their standards a bit...but I would like to point up, before I exit stage left, that judging by the samples presented on Nadel's website (big-time design jobs and clients notwithstanding) that those are some really junky-looking and amateurishly drawn covers on those pamphlets. And I know it's judging a book by its cover, sure, and the interiors may be so wonderful and extraordinary that it would make strong men cry, angels dance on the head of a pin, and cause warring people of all lands to lay down their arms and embrace world peace forever...but I doubt it. And I can perhaps see why the person or persons put in that judgmental position at Diamond might deem these books unsellable. Perhaps. But then again, Nadel & Co. still deserves, as Spurgeon said, an opportunity to get them out there and see what happens. I suppose what it boils down to is that the current system, with Diamond as the virtual monopoly, is deeply flawed and unfair. But until someone arrives with the money and the clout to provide an alternative, we'll just have to live with it.

Anyway, there's my two cents. As usual, no stand-taking on my part. Make of it as you will.