Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mrs. B sells insurance, y'see, so nine times out of ten when an insurance commercial comes on she's all "Turn it! Turn it!". But I draw the line at one series of insurance ads.

That's Erin Esurance above, and she's the star of a series of animated TV ads that have been appearing here and there for quite some time now. Nicely animated in that Genndy Tartakovsky-Samurai Jack Flash style, they're also very clever in how they keep coming up with fantastical situations to place her in, and I find myself enjoying them a lot. Plus, let's face it, she'a a cutie.

I found myself wondering a little earlier if these were collected somewhere on the Net, and lo and behold you can go to the site and watch all of them, either with Windows Media Player or Quicktime.

Also, I happened upon PunchPants, a blog which is maintained by three of the people who are involved with the making of the commercials, part of the main site of the animators, Go check 'em out!

You may now resume normal activity.

Okay, so this time I got up earlier and caught an entire episode of Legion of Super Heroes. My impressions?

Not bad. I liked the re-imagining of Timber Wolf's origin, this time setting him up as the unwilling beneficiary of Island of Dr. Moreau-style experiments by his father. At least I think it's a re-imagining; my knowledge of late-60's -early 70's Legion lore is somewhat inconsistent. If you've got to redo a character's origin story, you could do worse, I suppose.

Other likes:

Bouncing Boy as Jack Black. I didn't hear him speak in last weekend's eppy; that's a neat idea.

The back-and-forth between BB and Brainy was as amusing as it's supposed to be, especially the "snooping" remark.

Saturn Girl's boots. I have always been puzzled about the necessity, besides the obvious sex appeal that is, of putting high heels on superheroines- especially when they're called upon to brawl occasionally, and I suppose the closed-heel approach is as good as any. The animators tend to depict her standing kinda knock-kneed a lot, and heaven help me, it works.

I liked seeing the other Legionnaires at TW's swearing-in ceremony, especially Shrinking Violet, who is just damned cute in that Esurance commercial way. No Kinetix or XS, however. But I wasn't expecting them. Nice to see Gim Allon aka Colossal Boy alive and well in this version.


SG's eyes. They do make her look alien, but they also are just creepy.

Sometimes the animation dragged a bit, most noticeably in the scene where Brin's father was confessing all, and he shifted from condescendingly smug to threatening...but his expression went from smiling to frowning way too late to match the inflection of his voice. Gotta tighten that stuff up, CW!

The theme song. BORING, bland and anonymous. I know that Andy Sturmer can't do every cartoon theme, but if ever a series needed a punchy, catchy, cool tune it's this one. And this ain't it.

The writers and producers would do well to remember that the REASON why he's called LIGHTNING LAD is because he harnesses and blasts with ELECTRICAL LIGHTNING and not anonymous force beams. A lot of the stuff he did in this eppy would flash fry people, except of course Superboyman.

Overall, I liked this episode, although it did bring out the nitpicker in me. I'll try to get up again next Saturday to see the next one. At last, a reason to get up on Saturday morning!
NFL picks are up at the LJ. Just in case someone is wondering.
Got an email the other day from artist Bernard Chang, who has illustrated a new graphic novel called How to Make Money Like a Porn Star, telling me about its September 26th release date and asking if I'd pass on the heads-up, because publisher ReganBooks/HarperCollins is kinda new to the graphic novel game. I do get occasional promo emails from people, and even though I'm happy to be included, I don't always carry through and mention them like I should. So, for once, I'm gonna follow through.

It's written by New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss, and here's how Bernard describes it:

...the book is a dark, comedic satire of the porn industry, taken from
Neil's observations while he was writing the Jenna Jameson
autiobiography "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star." It is the story of
fictitious porn queen, Claudia Corvette, who's kidnapped on her way
to settle a score with porn rival, Giselle Viper. (All the porn stars
have the first names of supermodels and the last names of sports cars.)

I'm all about the dark and comedic, so it could be interesting, who knows. It's a little out of my price range, so I doubt I'll be reading it anytime soon. But then again, these days a 40 oz. Mountain Dew, Cheez-its and a copy of USA Today (my morning routine, y'know) are out of my price range. One reason why I'm inclined to hype this, though, is that I checked out Bernard's website and he is a heck of an artist- especially his sports-themed drawings. Seems he used to be a pretty good college basketball player as well. I wasn't very familiar with his work, although his name sounded familiar (I was afraid I was mixing him up with Cliff Chiang)...guess I managed to avoid picking up any comics with his art in them. Not the first time this has happened to me, probably won't be the last.

Also, he mentions that there are several art cameos in this book, including ones by Sean Chen and (most interestingly, to me anyway) John Paul Leon. Seems he was one of a group of artists called "The BLVD", among which were also numbered, along with Chen and Leon, one of my favorites: Tommy Lee Edwards. There's a book collection on sale by these fellas in tandem on Chang's site.

OK! Hype machine deactivated. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Le Petit BSNCR.

In which I take a look at a few of the comeeks and graphic novelly things that have crossed my path since last I inflicted my opinions on you, my beloved reader(s). The dates would be, in this case, September 21 through September 26. And, as always, some of these might even still be available at finer comics stores everywhere.

S: Jamie S. Rich; A: Joelle Jones (Oni, $14.95. In stores 10/18/06. Reviewed from B&W advance.)

I think it's a condition endemic to pushing middle age and being married for quite a long while...but I'll tell you right up front I don't have a lot of time or patience for romantic stories about young pretty people and the ins and outs of their relationships. Movies, TV, name it. Sometimes I even just smile and nod and shake my head in the appropriate places when my younger friends tell me all about their amorous misadventures. So, right off the bat there's a strike against this with me. But, I was determined to give it a fair shake since the fine folks at Oni had seen fit to bestow an advance upon me, so I sat down the other night and read this in one sitting. And even though I kept wishing to step into the page and demand that our protagonists, Gwen and Evan, please stop fucking around playing mind games and talk straight to each other, I got caught up in it anyway and was kinda digging it until another personal pet peeve of mine, the arbitrarily out-of-sequence narrative, reared its ugly head- particularly in the final chapter, causing me to turn the last page with a cocked eyebrow and puzzled expression rather than that good ol' satisfying feeling we all get when we get to the end of a particularly engrossing read. Yeah, yeah, I suppose this was necessary to keep us, the poor trusting reader, off balance or somesuch, but this storytelling device served no good reason that I could ascertain, unless the goal was to leave the reader as confused as poor Evan. And that's not exactly what I'm looking for in my reading experience, sorry. Your mileage may vary, as I keep saying. Anyway, among the pleasures to be found in this roundabout account is the art of Ms. Jones. If she ever works the obvious manga influences out of her system, she'll be a talent to watch. She has a deft hand with an ink brush, for sure, and when no one's looking she can bust out a wonderful sequence such as the stepping stone conversation on pgs. 124-125 or the nicely noirish chapter 7. I'm reminded a lot of Becky Cloonan too, since Ms. Jones is prone to change styles at the drop of a hat as well. A little more consistency, and a little less derivativeness (derivativity?), and I think she'll be a talent to keep an eye on. There's a lot to like about this book; and a lot which just isn't my cuppa...but I was engaged all the way through against my inclinations, and that's saying something. B+

S: Will Pfiefer; A: David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez (DC, $2.99)

A lot of fanmen are getting up in arms about the revelation about who Selina slept with during the past year; and who presumably is the father of her child. Me, I guess I've been reading too many Eros comics lately or something because I only shrugged. It wasn't particularly inconsistent with the way she's been portrayed in the recent past, and besides, consenting adults and all that. Also, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Pfiefer wasn't throwing us a curve here- nowhere is it explicitly stated that the child belongs to this particular person (trying hard not to spoil here, you're welcome)...maybe Miss Kyle has been catting around with more than one guy in that 365-day span. Anyway, after you get past that this is a solid continuation of the multiple storylines Pfiefer has going on; the Film Freak gets more ruthless and bloody, innocent Holly's still in jail, more Slam and Wildcat. The art is still good, if not exceptional, and there's a weird-ass surprise at the end. Still one of DC's best ongoings, says I. A-

S: Robert Venditti; A: Brett Weldele. (Top Shelf, $19.95)

Here's one which has flown under a lot of folks' radar, but it's a tight little exploration of duality and identity issues, not to mention human nature, all decked out in Philip Dick clothing. Unless they totally botch the ending, this one's well worth your time.

That's what I wrote when I placed this series, three issues in, on my Honorable Mentions in my Best of 2005 post. Nothing more to add, except they didn't botch the ending- and now here's the whole thing in one nice, if pricey, package. But like I said, it's a hell of a story, and the trade is packed with lotsa interesting extras such as text pieces, simulated advertising campaigns, a behind-the-scenes look at the creators' work process, and a very nice pinup gallery sporting work by Duncan Fregredo, Becky Cloonan, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood and others, and so on. This reissue goes the extra step to provide value for your money, and if you haven't already read this it's well worth getting. Hell, it's worth getting if you have read it! A

S: Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir; A: Cliff Richards, Dan Green. (DC, $2.99)

Well, it's always nice to see Dan Green inks, and thankfully this isn't as static, talky and jargon-heavy as previous issues have been, but even with no less than three writers contributing this is still leaden and dull, despite more superpeople running around than you can shake a stick at and a return of sorts of the Suicide Squad, an idea and series that I always liked better in theory than I ever did in practice, Chase #s 2 & 3 notwithstanding. I can't see me keeping this up much longer, but I'll be around for a couple more issues (preordered, y'see). C

More later, including Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Or, my would-be clever attempt to call my look at the December comics solicitations, (along with random interspersed comments about stuff that catches my attention) something besides "judging books by their covers", which is perfect but is already used by at least two, maybe more, people.

Anyway, without any further ado (cliche central!):


BATMAN #660 & 661 is by the Ostrander/Mandrake team which excelled on The Spectre, which was usually always a highly readable book when they did it back before I started blogging and reviewing. Will this make me want to buy? Nah.

DETECTIVE COMICS #826 is once more sporting art by the highly mediocre Kramer/Faucher team, which means I pass even though I like what fellow half Scotsman Paul Dini is doing.

CATWOMAN #62 promises all sorts of overwrought soap operatics, but fortunately Will Pfiefer doesn't indulge himself in the usual comic book-style overwrought soap opera, so I continue to be interested.

BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK #5 boasts a "ferociously injured Batman". Is that the best adjective they could come up with?

The BATMAN: YEAR ONE HUNDRED TP is well worth picking up. But then again, I'm a huge Pope fan. The artist, not the religious leader. Your mileage may vary.

I love me some Frank Quitely, but doesn't it look like his Bizarro on the cover of ALL STAR SUPERMAN #7 (above left) has been in the bathtub too long?

SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #2 sports a really nice cover, above center, with a rare (for him) sexy female (in this instance Lois Lane) drawing. I'm not the biggest admirer of Sale's work these days, but this is a good one. I'm still on the fence about buying, however.

BIRDS OF PREY #101 : Looks like Manhunter is joining the cast of this book. I really don't want to have to start buying this title, so thanks for nuthin, DC!

THE CREEPER #5 See? The Joker! What did I tell you? About the only thing left for this extremely uninspired title to do is bring back Proteus, the first Creeper archfoe.

DCU INFINITE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: (above right) Interesting that DC is doing these again; there may have been others in recent years but I don't recall them. The last holiday-themed DC anthology book I remember had that story about Santa meeting Darkseid. This cover tries really hard to look cheery, but the facial expressions, especially Superman's, are just off. The A DC UNIVERSE CHRISTMAS TP may have that story, and would appear to be a better value.

HAWKGIRL #59: Jeez, Chaykin, what's wrong with you these days? Could Hawkgirl spread her legs any wider?

JONAH HEX #14: (above left) Jordi Bernet! Oh, yeah. Looking forward to this one.

CONNOR HAWKE: DRAGON'S BLOOD #2: Y'know, I've always thought that Green Arrow the Younger was a more interesting character than his dad these days, but there's always been a bit of vanilla in his character that's kept me at arm's length. I'm not planning on buying this, but I may give it a look on the racks first. I like that cover.

The thing with this otherwise fine Art Adams cover for JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #5 (above center) is something that's always bugged me about this rendition of Kendra, and HawkMAN for that matter- those metal claw things on their boots. Those things have GOT to be uncomfortable sitting on top of what appears to be soft leather boots; plus I'd bet the janitors for the JSA really hate them for leaving scratch marks all over the floors and furniture! Not the most practical accessory in the superhero world, I say.

MANHUNTER #26: Another nice Art Adams cover, even though he does things with anatomy that bug me when lesser artists do it- impossibly long, thick legs and tiny torsos abound. And Elayne: looks like I'm finally going to get a book with your husband's inks!

THE SPIRIT #1: (above right) Finally!

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD - THE BATMAN TEAM-UPS VOL. 1 TP features many of the stories that Mag and H over at the Treadmill have been spotlighting for a long time now, and one of my most favoritist comics ever, #80's Batman-Creeper teamup. This should be a good read.

TEEN TITANS GO! #38 , above left, is another Mad Mod appearance. Smashing, baby!

Love that cover for JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #28, above center, featuring the good ol' Phantom Stranger. It's by Ty Templeton, but the interiors are by someone else not named Burchett so for me it's caveat emptor.

That Alex Ross cover on ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE BOOK TWO #3 - hoo, does that hurt my eyes! I mean, I understand the whys and wherefores of it, but those colors.

December also marks the welcome return of DESOLATION JONES with #8.

ROKKIN #6: Rokkin, eh? Does he have a partner named Rollin? Will he make a guest appearance on Metalocalypse? Just wondering.

Those Quitely covers on AMERICAN VIRGINhave been nice, but I'm liking what I've seen of these new Josh Middletons. Above right is the one for #10. I'm still very much on the fence about this title, but it definitely speaks to my fanman crush on Adam's sister!

You should all check out the DOOM PATROL VOL. 5: MAGIC BUS TP if you haven't already. I liked the second appearance of the Brotherhood of Dada as much as I liked the first, and Agent "!" (he comes as no surprise!) and the Love Glove were flat out inspired. The above cover, not the final, is actually the cover for issue #52.

Another lovely James Jean cover, above center, with a Christmas theme graces the latest FABLES, #56 to be precise. The copy says that we'll find out how Santa Claus figures in to Willingham's world.

The Fables sidekick title JACK OF FABLES #6 sports lots of good old spoiler copy, but said copy also informs us that the backup story will feature art by regular title inker Steve Leialoha, and that's great news. You see, I'm not especially impressed by the Buckingham/Leialoha team, but I've always loved Leialoha's work on his own. So I'm looking forward.

Gave up on this title months ago, but that's a sharp Marcelo Frusin cover on LOVELESS #14, above right.


I am far from being a Marvel zombie, but I am finding myself as interested in that company's output as I've been in decades. Here's a few which caught my eye:

DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN SKETCHBOOK is a freebie promo for a Peter David adaptation of the Stephen King series (which I've never read) with art by Jae Lee. I care less than nothing for this particular King work, but I like Lee's art so I might look for a copy of this. I'm kinda-sorta hoping that DCBS will stick one in my box, like they do some Free Comic Book Day titles.

Nice to see that ULTIMATES 2 #13 is at least on a schedule. It will be a little bittersweet because I most likely won't buy U3 with its new script/art team.

Much has been made of the big metal boobies that the title character in ULTIMATE VISION #1 (of 5) is sporting, and it's true, they're el grande. It matters not one iota to me, I won't be buying. She kinda reminds me a little of the robot in Metropolis, though...

Things sound pretty dire in the copy for AGENTS OF ATLAS #5...but at least we have a nice Venus cover, above left, to sweeten the medicine a bit.

I just don't think it's possible for me to anticipate an upcoming new series more than I am DOCTOR STRANGE: THE OATH. Above center is the cover for #3, which features many of Doc's rogues gallery, including Tiboro and best of all, the Unbelieveable Umar, va va voom! Looks like a kind of homage to the 173rd issue of Doc's '60's series. I have to keep telling myself, though: "It's scripted by Brian's scripted by Brian Vaughan..." and that keeps me grounded.

Meanwhile, here we have a newish comic by the fellow who botched the last attempt to launch the good Doctor in his own series: J. Michael Straczynski. It seems to be a What If-? type book called BULLET POINTS, and to its credit it boasts art by the always-excellent Tommy Lee Edwards. Does this mean I'll pick up #2, cover above? No.

HEROES FOR HIRE #5 sports a cover which looks like a rejected Purgatori illustration. This does not bode well.

Back in the 80's, I was completely and blissfully uninterested in the New Universe. Not my cuppa, old chap. But now Warren Ellis has gone and revived it, sort of, and I'm tempted. newuniversal #1 : another one to look over on the racks before I decide.

Isn't NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. #11 the penultimate issue? It's been kinda up and down, but lately it's been very amusing and I'll be sad to see it stop. Funny cover.

I know absolutely nothing about this MARVEL/DABEL BROTHERS joint project thing, but one title sounds intriguing: RED PROPHET: THE TALES OF ALVIN MAKER. I've yet to sample the wares of Orson Scott Card, whom word of mouth around the intarwub paints with an unsightly brush...but I rarely let personalities enter in to the mix when it comes to deciding what I want to read. Another game time decision, I guess.

So, if we all buy CRIMINAL, are we guilty of aiding and abetting? Harboring a known criminal? Just wondering. Anyway, at left is the cover for #3. Looking forward to this, the latest from the Brubaker/Phillips team.

There be some serious crack in that ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS VOL. 2 TPB...but for me, the series didn't really get good until a few issues later. Look for Vol. 3, which should have the Scorpio/Zodiac issues, the open membership audition, the arc with the Blue Oyster Cult song lyric references, and much more. That shit is bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s.


Don't know anything about the DRINK AND DRAW, VOL. 1 HC except that I like the title (have been known to do that myself upon occasion, more the former than the latter sorry to say) and I was about to make it a point to buy until I saw those two magic letters: HC. These letters transform mild-mannered me into Super-Not-Buyerman. The only way to bring him back to normal is to print those other letters: SC.

JACK STAFF, VOL. 3: ECHOES OF TOMORROW TP: I'm excited by this because it holds out hope that #12 will be out before December, when this is scheduled for release!

I trust Matt Fraction to make something as simple as monkey-slaughtering, as noted in the promo copy, into an understanding-defiant mindfuck. CASANOVA #7 is supposed to be the last issue of Vol. 1. What this signifies, except for a hiatus of sorts, is anybody's guess.

I kinda wish I'd made more of an effort to keep up with GØDLAND after the first issue, which I received as a comp. Oh well, life is short and money is scarce. The semi-cover for #15 reproduced here and the synopsis looks/sounds as freaky as all the others.

Also in that category: PHONOGRAM. I didn't even get a comp of that one. The cover for #5 will certainly attract some attention, I'd think.

I'm thinking I'll look for the trade of THE PIRATES OF CONEY ISLAND. Writer Rick Spears sent me a promo email about it, but typically I neglected to post anything about it. The cover for #3, above right, is done by Becky Cloonan...I think. The regular artist does the other version, and I'm not familiar with his work enough to know the difference!

And that's it! Boy, this took a long time, didn't it! Anyway, next up: reviews of some books I got in the mail, as well as a couple of comics I got at the ol' LCS on Friday. Be there or be elsewhere.

I've been seeing links here, there (and everywhere? Sorry.) to this CBR feature about the aborted 1999 graphic novelization of the 1968 animated Beatles flick Yellow Submarine by Bill Morrison, whose work I have, sadly, been completely unaware of all this time.

Since I am one of the biggest Beatle fans you'd ever want to meet, as well as a huge admirer of the film itself, I just had to make a comment or two. To wit:

It's beautiful! As the example above shows, as well as the ones in the CBR article (LOVE page 8, and what did they say? all you need is love). Morrison brings a nicely aggressive and creative layout style to that by-now familiar story (I must have seen this film a good 50 times, not only in theatres in its first run when I was 8 but on TV, VHS, and now DVD) which serves to make it fresher. I would, as the kids say, totally buy this.

It's too bad that they didn't have this book, Inside the Yellow Submarine: The Making of the Beatles' Animated Classic by Robert Hieronimus to use as reference material; it sheda a lot of light on the convoluted and piecemeal way that film was constructed. Also, Bill, the artist on that Gold Key adaptation (which I still have, coverless, somewhere) was Jose Delbo, not Paul S. Newman.

Let me add my voice to those who would love to see this finished and released, but knowing how difficult the Apple people can be, I won't stand on one leg waiting.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

OK, I know, I said next up was my look at the December solicits...but it's taking me forever (storming outside, here, y'see, and it makes my pokey internet connection freak the fuck right out) to accumulate the cover images and such, so here's something else in the meantime.

Caught the last ten minutes of the debut of the new LEGION OF SUPER HEROES cartoon this morning. I actually slept until after 9:00 for once, plus I didn't know exactly what time it aired, so I turned on the TV to see if I missed it and lo and behold there it was- and what I saw didn't look too bad. Like the Teen Titans toon, it was fast paced and lively, and seemed to aspire to more story depth than your average episode of Naruto or Yu-Gi-Oh. Badguys were the Fatal Five, sort of a requirement for Legion debuts I think, and I thought they were nicely done- especially the Emerald Empress, who in the right hands can be sexy as all get out. Yeah, I know, she skews a lot too young for me in this incarnation, but she was just the same. I also liked the way they portrayed Bouncing Boy- he seems to be the Plastic Man of the outfit, and his longtime gal pal Triplicate Girl (Y'see, I always preferred the Bierbaum codename Triad- "Triplicate Girl" makes her sound like a secretary) who was given a lot more freedom and ability to split faster than she is in the comic, plus when she divides into purple TG, orange TG and white TG, she gets hair color to match! What do the anime fangirls say? "SQUEEE!" I don't like the freaky pointy eyes they gave Saturn Girl- I know, it's to emphasize her alien nature but they make her look like Jerry Mouse as animated by Chuck Jones. I also don't care for the Transformer-esque Brianiac; it's good to see his character design was based on the Olivier Coipel version, but I dislike that whole Robobrainy idea.

I think that if I can get up in time, I'll watch more.

And now for something completely different:

You may have forgotten by now, but there's this really good title coing out from Wildstorm called The Winter Men. # 4 came out what? Two, three months ago? It makes Jack Staff and the Ultimates seem like bi-weeklies! But now, according to writer Brett Lewis' MySpace page, #5 is set to be released in two weeks, and he's even posted links to some pages of John Paul Leon art.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yarr. I be back, with a post started on "Talk Like a Pirate Day", with another edition of the BSNCR! In which I drop a brief-to-a-fault comment or three upon comics that I've read in the interval since I last inflicted my opinions upon you all, AKA September 4 through September 20, many of which might still be for sale at your local comics shop at cover price if you hurry! Matey.

Now complete!

S: Jeff Parker; A: Leonard Kirk, Kris Justice. (Marvel, $2.99)

Where does a 500 pound gorilla go to the bathroom on a Uranian spaceship? Why, anywhere he wants to, of course! Another entertaining chapter as we slowly get acquainted with all the major players and the forces that oppose them. Parker does very well once more with not only the more-down-to-Earth character stuff and the superspy elements, as might be expected from the author of Interman, and doesn't forget to mix in some much-welcome humor while he's at it. And finally, we get to see Venus, drawn with strategically placed strands of hair and not much else by the still-surprisingly good Kirk/Justice team. So far, so good. A-

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

In which Fraction continues to bend over backwards to impress us all with his cleverness, at the expense of storytelling clarity. Four issues in, and something tells me it ain't gonna get any better on that score...guess it will be something to tolerate rather than celebrate because I like the concept and the character too much to bail just yet. And anyway, judging by all the accolades this title's getting all around the 'Net, it sure looks like I'm in the minority on that account. Anyway, thank the diety(ies) of your choice for Ba, who continues to provide what little mooring we get with his adventurous, graceful and stylish artwork. C+

S: Steve Niles; A: Justiniano, Walden Wong. (DC, $2.99)

Just like #1, a depressing rehash of practically everything that's ever been done with this character in its 30 plus year history, minus the fun and adventure. This issue, the obligatory Batman cameo. Coming soon, why of course, the Joker. Sometimes there are far worse fates for beloved comic book characters than languishing in Limbo...D-

DMZ 11
S: Brian Wood; A: Kristian Donaldson. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

One of those "kinda fill-in but not-really" issues, which not only gets us up to speed on costar Zee, but also fills in a lot of the blanks about the events that led to the divided state of the nation in Wood's not-so-distant-future shock scenario. Wood must be doing something right to continue not only to coerce me to buy what I still believe is a mighty far-fetched state of affairs, but also become as invested in the main characters as I am by now. The fill-in part comes in courtesy of Donaldson, who does a mighty neat Becky Cloonan impersonation. Which is not to say that I don't hope that regular artist Burchielli isn't gone too long. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Josh Middleton. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

The other shoe continues to drop as the bad guys convene to plan strategy, and we find out that one of these stratagems is death by pestilence as brought upon us by Neil Gaiman. We also get two interludes with big bad Bigby, who strikes a deal with Peter Cottontail to help train his pack of kids to hunt, and the Flycatcher, who has transformed back into a real frog. Finally, a beautifully illustrated and somewhat amusing, if awfully slight, Porcupine tale as a back feature. In short, another entertainingly written and competently drawn issue of DC's stalwart title. A-

S/A: Paul Grist. (Image, $3.50)

Grist must have had a plane to catch while he was writing this, because it's stripped-down and streamlined and all the better for it. He goes from WWII superhero nostalgia to Moorcock swipes to a weird, almost Gaimanesque interlude, to a fight between the plainclothed title character and the aforementioned Moorcock rip, with the always amusing Alan Moore pisstake Morlan the Mystic standing by as he usually does, and there's never a dull moment- Grist, too, has multiple characters, and plays around with the sequential and spatial nature of his narrative, but thanks to his crisp dialogue style and adventurous, playful art and layouts he never gets cluttered, confusing, or boring. Previous issues have been a bit inconsistent, perhaps, not so much when you read them all together (bodes well for the trade)...but this one is an efficient winner. A-

S: Graymiotti; A: David Michael Beck. (DC, $2.99)

Remember #1's carny, with the main attraction a mad dogs-vs.-young boys battle? Well, they're back, sans ringleader, and let's just say they're not especially happy with their lot in life and are looking for some payback on the fella who put them in their current situation. Nicely done, with a surprising amount of characterization and a neat reference to what is still my favorite Hex tale, the Russ Heath-illo'd "Strange Death of Jonah Hex". Wish to God I could find an affordable copy. ANyway, also getting some screen time is another DC Weird Western stalwart, El Diablo, and while I don't recall ever having read any of his adventures, if they're as deftly handled as this one was I might have to rectify that someday. Art is provided by Beck, whose stuff is almost as prissy and lifeless as Luke Ross' could be sometimes, and it's not done any favors by the excessively dark Photoshoppery of Bob Schwager, but is still good enough in its painterly way. Almost not not bad overall, I says. B+

S/A: Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics, $4.50)

I don't know, guess I'm once more missing the point, but when I read Gilbert's stuff these days I just get the feeling that he's just screwing around and putting us all on- between the gratuitous T & A (I know, he's always done this, or at least as far back as I can remember) embellishing (or is that distracting from) the halfhearted attempts to get us to empathize with characters that are mostly opaque to the reader even though he's been giving them to us for a long time now, and the jaundiced, detached and somewhat meanspirited take on the characters of "Dumb Solitaire", along with "Julio's Day" which is just getting more surreal, and not in a good way, every time out- I mean, I just don't know what I'm supposed to make of his work these days. But then again, I've never really bought L&R for Beto's stuff anyway- it's his brother who continues to hit them out of the park. There's more humanity, more affection, humor and wit- more of just everything, in his accounts of Maggie and Hopey and all their friends and lovers than in any of his brother's stories since they resurrected this title...and as always, there's no contest in the drawing department either. Gilbert's ungainly and muddled work still bears a distinctive stamp that makes it all his own- he's not copying anybody, and that means a lot in these troubled times. But sometimes the contrarian in me protests at having to sit through all of it just to read the latest by Jaime, who has always been a favorite. And for four-fitty, skipping just isn't an option. What's a poor contrarian to do? Besides wish for a return to the days of Penny Century, that is? B+

S: Jim Starlin; A: Shane Davis, Matt Banning, Al Milgrom (DC, $3.99)

Despite my long-held opinion that Starlin lost his cosmic mojo sometime after Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2, and has pretty much repeated himself ever since (and that includes the mostly enjoyable first two Infinity series), and I can't think of a less exciting candidate for a revival attempt than the horribly-named Captain Comet, this wasn't all that bad. Just this side of downright enjoyable, as a matter of fact. Davis and Banning appear to have learned their craft from that "How to draw" feature that used to run weekly in Wizard, as they Top Cow all over the place, but I've seen far worse examples...even from the pen of their Guru Jim Lee. They do a decent job of telling the story, even through all the scratchy lines and grimaces and would-be stylistic flourishes. And while I'm thinking about it, is it me, or does anyone else think that Starlin must get paid by the caption? Exposition, exposition, exposition, especially in the backup feature which spotlights another of his lesser creations, the Weird. I think I still own that miniseries, which I bought because Berni Wrightson did the as-it-turned-out equally uninspired art. Starlin does OK as he assumes the pencilling chores, inked by his old Warlock running buddy Milgrom. I suppose the best way I can describe this is not good enough to justify dropping four bucks on it, but engaging enough to not make you feel gypped if you do so, and if that's damning with faint praise well so be it. B-

S: Rick Remender; A: Nick Stakal (Image, $2.99)

The more things change, the more they stay the same in this book as we get a kinda-sorta new artist (Stakal did an issue or two a few months ago, if I recall correctly), who isn't bad, a little like Jill Thompson or Mark Badger if he/she inked his/her work left-handed...but more of the same old same old otherwise: Girl vs. Demons as she seeks to avoid being called out on the carpet by the Big Kahuna demon she escaped from, while trying to keep her friend alive and make her way in the oddball post-rapture world she's forced to live in. A long time ago, I thought we might be getting some interesting theological ideas to go along with the magic-slinging Mad Max-isms, silly me, but I abandoned that notion long ago...and am beginning to wonder why I continue to buy. Maybe it's because the Girl is still likeable, the action and dramatics aren't overdone and sappy, and...well, that's it, I guess. I'm sure I'll figure it out one of these days. B-

BEST OF SHOW: JACK STAFF, I suppose, although Agents of Atlas is like #1A.

DOG OF THE WEEK(S): By far, THE CREEPER. Six issues that can't come and go soon enough. Fortunately, I have declined to order #4.

Next up: JUDGING COVERS BY THE BOOK, or a look at DC, Marvel, and Image's December solicits. Only a whole week after everybody else...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hello there! See? It hasn't been so bad, me not being around here for a while, has it? Why, I'll bet the comics blogosphere as a whole didn't even know that I had stopped. The sound of crickets chirping was all you could hear...even though I must say that David AKA the Clandestine Critic has a lotta nerve to blame me for HIS hiatus! Slack off on your OWN dime, buddy! And hurry back!

New reviews start Monday. Right now, I just wanted to let those who are keeping score at home know that I have posted another in my Don Quixote series- aka JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PICKS- over at the LiveJournal.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Once more into the breach, dear friends, with another hopelessly tardy edition of the BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE, in which I poot forth a quarter-ounce green rosette near the summit of a dense but radiant muffin of my own design. Uh, I mean poot forth capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused since the last time my opinions graced the halls of your cognitive data centers, in that miniscule amount of time that we mortals like to refer to as 20 August through 3 September, some of which might even still be on the racks of your comics shop. And awaaay we go!

S: Cullen Bunn; A: Brian Hurtt. (Oni, $3.50, reviewed from B&W advance)

1920's style Mob adventure, with a couple of slight differences: the protagonist is (yet another) living dead man, name of Eddie, who gets killed gruesomely but always revives thanks to a curse laid on him, and the Mob bosses aren't Scarface, Don Vito Corleone or Capone, they're soul-trafficking demons. One demon, who is trying to broker some sort of agreement with another powerful demon Godfather, charges our boy Eddie to find a missing demon bookkeeper who holds a lot of important secrets. Supernatural elements aside, this is a fairly familiar plot but Bunn (apparently a horror novelist with whom I'm totally unfamiliar) does a good job of blending it all together, and the requisite hardboiled dialogue is deftly handled. Biggest asset is the Guy Davis-meets-Ditko-meets-Joe Staton-meets-Wally Wood-as-inker art style of Hurtt, who gives the proceedings an appropriately gothic feel with lots and lots of the black stuff, and does a really effective job on the creepy dream sequence about midway through. This isn't the sort of book that ctaches my eye sight unseen, so I didn't order it from DCBS when it was solicited a while back. But don't make my mistake- if you see it on the shelf, give it a look. It's the beginning of a solid and promising read. A-

S/A: Brendan McCarthy, with help from Steve Cook, Howard Hallis, Jono Howard, Tom O'Connor, Robbie Morrison, Sir Trevor Goring, and God knows who or what else. (DC, $4.99)

I've been wrestling with exactly what I wanted to say about this for several days now, which is why it's taken me so long and has ended up as the last review I'm writing for this period's stack of books. I've loved McCarthy's work since I first saw it in the Eclipse reprint series Strange Days in 1984, appropriately enough. Rogan Gosh: Star of the East was also an eye-opener. McCarthy works in a postmodern psychedelic style (as it says in that Gosh Wiki) which is a virtual explosion of ideas, humor and playfulness with the form and feel of sequential storytelling, and while he often goes in a dozen directions at once, it's always challenging and stimulating to watch him do so. It has been too long since I've seen his work anywhere, and this is almost as satisfying a comeback as one could hope for. Of course, since this is a DC book, it gives McCarthy near-free rein to do what he wilt with the licensed properties, so in what has become a tradition we get his typically mind-bending takes on the Flash and Batman (since every issue has featured a Bat-story of some sort, will future comics classifiers count Solo in the Bat-family of titles? Just wondering)...but my favorite was Johnny Sorrow, remade/remodeled in the John Constantine mold. The other vignettes and features are all typically witty, especially the finale "Slouch World", with a surprising and funny cameo at the end. It's a damn shame that this series has to end; I suppose the biggest surprise is that it lasted as long as it did given the apparent apathy towards anthology titles amongst the Great Unwashed, the expenses involved, and many other things. I wish it could have gone 24 at least, and we could have gotten the Jill Thompson or Evan Dorkin spotlights that were once mentioned. Oh well, such is life, and at least we got a phantasmagoric fuzzy wuzzy loving cup explosion to go out on. A

DMZ 10
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Satisfying conclusion to the 5-part "Body of a Journalist" story arc, as Matt proves himself a shrewd negotiator (although I can't help but think that this will cause problems down the road) and even gets laid (although I can't help but think that this will cause problems down the road, too) for his trouble...and not by Zee, who seems to be falling into the Turanga Leela role in this little futurama. I've come to really like this book, even though I'll probably never buy the premise 100%, and I'm also liking the nicely detailed Burchielli art- he's reminding me a bit of Jock's work the farther he goes along. Boy, isn't it a shame that The Losers isn't around for Riccardo to do a fill-in arc? A-

S: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly (Oni, $2.99)

My appreciation for Local is declining in inverse proportion to my appreciation for the aforementioned other Wood trying so hard to make Megan such a difficult (for lack of a better word)-to-like character, he's really hamstringing the project as a whole. I can get behind eccentric, I can even get behind snarky, cruel or unpleasant in the right combination. But when you give me a character that keeps going from one schizo extreme to another- sympathetic one time, disturbing another, well, it's just a little offputting, that's all. Here, every time Meg gains our sympathy vis-a-vis her equally squirrely new roommate, she lets us down by deliberately fucking with her out of spite. Sure, it's valid, and there are people like both these women all over...but in order to maintain interest in a story, it really helps to have someone or something, a hook to hang one's head on if you will, and Local is dead set on defying my sympathy or trust one way or the other. Which makes me view it objectively...and that, in turn, gives way to evil cousin dispassionate boredom. Again, nice reference work by Kelly, who draws the hell out of this like he has all the other issues. I suppose you could bump this up a notch if you're a Brooklyn native- it's certainly got the atmosphere, or at least that NYCNY atmosphere that a Kentucky native has only experienced once or twice in his sad, sheltered life. But veracity and atmosphere will only get you so far, and when my only reaction after reading was the fervent wish to place both young ladies in time out, I can only give this a C+

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

A kind of retrenching to the very beginning, as Adam once more falls back into the supernatural Christian motivational speaker racket he was in when we met him...and as with the early issues, it works a lot better for me than him traipsing off to Africa and doing action-thriller stunts does. Some nice character moments throughout, especially with a cynical tranny whom he encounters at a press conference (I was wondering what had become of Lord Fanny since the Invisibles had folded, ha ha) and my flagging interest has slightly perked up a bit. And no, not because of the tranny. Anyway, can't not mention another excellent art job by Cloonan; she has a way with talking heads conversations...and also, a really nice coloring job by Brian Miller, who eschews the usual Vertigo-standard murky palette for some vivid hues. Problem is, I have a sinking feeling we're going to be back in Africa, just like Shaft, in a little while...which points to my by-now standard complaint about the inconsistent tone this willfully neither-here-nor-there title is determined to maintain. B+

S/A: Matthew Loux (Oni, $11.99, B&W advance copy)

For those who like Scott Pilgrim and Kevin Smith's Clerks flicks, here's your next favorite thing. The misadventures of three teenage (although they really don't look that young) buds who bounce around from cute girls to angry jocks to even angrier girl scouts, all the time keeping up a steady stream of popculture references and snappy patter for well over 200 pages. And while I was a bit dubious at first, this got better and better as it went along to the point where I can honestly say I was hugely entertained, even though I don't really think I'm quite the demographic this is aimed for. Just like Scott Pilgrim! Anyway, Loux the scripter is helped a lot by Loux the artist, whose angular Andi Watson-meets-the guy who draws Sharknife style grated at the outset (all those pointy chins!) but won me over eventually by how fast it kept the pace, not an easy task at this book's length. While not the most original thing to come down the pike, it was a breezy, enjoyable read overall and I can recommend it, especially if you like the influences I've cited. A-

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

In what should have been titled All-Star Clark Kent, we revisit Luthor in prison as Clark is sent to do an exclusive interview and all hell breaks loose in the form of the Parasite, who swells to obscene proportions due to the close proximity of Superman. He breaks free, causing chaos and disorder in the facility, forcing Clark to go to outrageous lengths to follow Luthor around as he obliviously pontificates about his hatred for his enemy...and not blow his cover while making sure that everyone, Luthor included, is protected. E. Nelson Bridwell, and perhaps Benny Hill, would be proud of the slapstick scenarios that ensue. I've read almost unanimous praise for this one, but I guess I'm feeling contrary because while this was still high quality, my biggest reservation was the one thing most cited as the strength of this issue: Grant's portrayal of Lex Luthor. While Grant wasn't especially inconsistent with his Lex in issue #1, he still gives us a pompous, buffoonish Lex, who is so busy speechmaking that he doesn't stop to wonder why the Parasite (who, by the way, I thought was supposed to gain powers by touching someone- not by just being close...did I miss a retcon somewhere? Probably.) is reacting in such extreme fashion, and doesn't even begin to recognize his own hated enemy even though they're nose-to-nose. At first, when he had Lex on trial, I thought he was very well done. But the farther this one goes along, the more I began to get weary of this clueless Luthor- and I know, I know, Granty's being all ironic here. The same man who can invent a brilliant Biblio-bot and construct an elaborate escape route under everybody's nose is too blinded by his hatred to see the proverbial forest. But there was just something that was a bit too pat, too easy about it, and I'm not accustomed to such an predictable, un-cerebral approach from our boy Grant. Not a deal-breaker, but disappointing to me. Fortunately, Quitely is still more than equal to the task; in a story that doesn't call for a great deal of mind-blowing metaphysics, he gets all locked down in a tight five-or-six panel grid when depicting events inside the prison, gives us a really convincing Kent just by changing the hairstyle and posture, proving that glasses aren't the only disguise at Supes' disposal, and takes some of Grant's less inspired jokes, such as the drawn-on eyebrows Luthor is sporting here, and amplifies them nicely...the cocked eyebrow he draws is brilliant. I don't know- there was a lot to like here, and this is far from a failure, but I just couldn't buy Lex here, and that's a serious shortcoming. Maybe I'm just too attached to the superior Superman: the Animated Series version, still the blueprint for doing Luthor in modern comics in my opinion. I often worry about Grant spreading himself too thin now that he's apparently "Mr. Everything" at DC. Hopefully my fears will be unfounded. B+

S: Ed Brubaker, A: David Aja. (Marvel, $2.99)

Fine "break-in-the-action" story which fills us in on what the not-so-dead Foggy Nelson's been going through after his stabbing. Brubaker does a great job of showing us exactly why Nelson puts up with his best friend's extracurricular activities, and helps breathe life into a character that often gets relegated to the sidelines far too often. Not that I want to see Daredevil's Best Pal Foggy Nelson comics or anything, but it doesn't hurt, once in a while, to focus on the supporting cast. Clever touch: Foggy's federal protection alias: "Everett", heh heh. Aja has a nicely expressive style, and has the patented Maleev/Gaudiano murky sloppy inking method down pat. He's shown me enough to make me think that he'll be all right on the upcoming Iron Fist book. A-

S: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges; A: Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

I'm liking this in spite of myself; while the basic, Prisoner-lite setup is good, and it's interesting to have the thoroughly bad-girl Goldilocks back in action, the Big Bad in charge of the gated community (or barbed-wire prison depending on your outlook) isn't defined nearly enough for my liking and the art is often cringe-inducingly bad, with shifting facial features and awkward, mannered poses. Akins and Pepoy seem to be trying to emulate Mark Buckingham or Shawn McManus emulating Berni Wrightson emulating Graham Ingles, but they're awfully inept at it. Anyway, this "Mr. Revise", the Big Bad in question, is trying to keep fairytale folk out of the real world- he must not be very happy with the majority of the characters over in the mother book, who live right under the "Mundy's" noses in the city, for sure, and we're really not given enough background or motivation to make him a credible threat. Until we get that, he's just a Wally Cox type who can turn into a green blobby monster when he gets riled. I guess it's a measure of how much I'm invested in the vibe of the main book, that I'm as interested as I am because there isn't a single likeable, or for that matter interesting, character in the whole darn thing, except perhaps Goldilocks in a perverse fashion...and that can't be what the writers want. C+

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada; A: Lee Moder (inker(s) uncredited) (Dynamite Entertainment, $2.99)

Now, here, on the other hand, we have a comic full of unpleasant, unlikeable people doing unpleasant, unlikeable things to each other...but I like this a lot more than I probably should. I think a large part of that is because of the underrated talents of Moder, who drew what I thought was a very good stint on Legion of Super-Heroes at DC and pretty much fell off the map afterwards. Shame, because I like his style, which reminds me a little of Gil Kane with perhaps a smidge of Mike Golden- it's really hard to play "spot the influence" with his work. Which is in service of a mostly dire and downbeat revenge/avenge tale, something which if it was a film would be called something like Deadly Target or Savage Victory, would have Wings Hauser or Gary Busey in it, and go straight-to-DVD, airing on Cinemax at midnight or so...and sure enough, we've already had a Painkiller Jane TV-movie on the Sci-Fi Network, which nobody watched. heck, I only watched about 30 minutes of it myself. Back to the matter at hand: as usual, the somewhat tragic Jane metes out violent justice on the abhorrent family who has perpetrated a heinous list of shocking crimes over a very long period of time, and takes her fair share of abuse and damage as she does so. There's probably a lot of repellent subtext here if I care to ponder it, which makes me wonder why I continue to buy and why I kinda like the character, but Jane gives as good as she gets, so I suppose that makes it a bit more palatable. Guess your mileage will vary. A lot. B+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Gee, it seems like only a week or so ago I read #1. Anyway, most of my standard objections remain, but despite that I found myself enjoying this chapter more than the first. There is thankfully a lot less lowbrow misogynism this time, guess that helped. Maybe there is some Hitman-style spark left in ol' Garth, after all...but that is not to say that this holds a candle to that one- far from it. However, I still found myself cracking a smile here and there, and sometimes that's enough to get by. Still don't care for the art, but that's a long-standing Bacardi Show tradition that dates back to the Transmetropolitan days. B

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

Not-bad, not-great look at, as it says on the cover, a day in the life of Blue Devil. He lives in this Metropolis apartment with a typical group of eccentric characters, a couple of demons show up and try to take him back to hell, out of the blue a giant dragon-creature of some sort appears and now BD must deal with both threats, which makes him late for a meeting of the Shadowpact. It all gets wrapped up conveniently before the end, of course. Which is not to say that this wasn't a pleasant read; far from it. It's a quite decent and sincere attempt to do a "get-to-know, change-of-pace" story, and that even extends to the art by Scott and Faucher, which is also competent, nicely done in places, but when all is said and done it looks just like almost every DC art drone these days...the ones that aren't copying Rags Morales, that is. Guess it's like McDonalds- fills you up, tastes good (if not necessarily good for you), but ultimately is unexciting in its homogeneity. B

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


Another fait accompli for protagonist Dane, as he rights yet another wrong by proxy from beyond the grave with the thoroughly hissable agents of the Cardinal in hot pursuit. We get a bit more light shed on the nature of the "miracle" that enabled our boy to survive that fatal plane crash with all his fellow passengers memories and skills intact, and while none of it is all that surprising, really, it's quite credible, especially of you're the sort that enjoys TV shows like Medium, Supernatural, and Ghost Whisperer. And makes this yet another title featuring a living dead man, which seems to be all the rage these days. Even so, this is intelligently written, impeccably drawn in that J.P. Leon/Tommy Lee Edwards style by Azaceta...and now more than ever I'm sure I don't want to see the film adaptation, because I doubt that it will be an improvement on this. A-

S: Judd Winick; A: Howard Porter (DC, $2.99)

It is my carefully held opinion, and has been so ever since I witnessed the first DC attempt to perpetuate the trademark it bought (some say swindled) from Fawcett crash and burn, a victim of editorial interference and inability by some (admittedly) pretty good artists and writers to channel what C.C. Beck and Otto Binder did to make these characters fun in the only real time that this sort of stuff could really work, the 1940's and 1950's, that there is just no way to make the Marvel Family valid in the modern comics world, such as it is. For years, since DC just doesn't want to let the copyright lapse to such a recognizable character, we've been subjected to a score of dreary dull and misguided attempts to "modernize" the Marvels, to make them interesting and palatable to a generation that's geared to less genteel thrills and chills than the generations of their grandfathers. And therein lies the rub: Captain Marvel was created to be competition for National's Superman, with magical origins for his powers rather than scientific. And that's why Cap will always just be a patch on his more iconic cousin's entire ethos, and that extends to the Mary Marvel/Supergirl, Captain marvel Jr./Superboy, Sivana/Luthor anagrams as well. The difference in the characters was the approach- Binder and Beck went for a more simple, almost childlike feel for their character and his stories, and it worked for the less jaded and demanding kids of that bygone era. These days, that sort of audience doesn't exist anymore, and for that matter, writers just don't think like that anymore with very few exceptions...which is why (no matter how Grant Morrison tries- he's just too self-aware, arch, and clever) we also can't get a Hawkman, Green Lantern or Atom, just to name a few, revival that matches the early 60's heyday of the modern version of those characters, and no one can get into the mindset that John Broome and Gardner Fox inhabited. Which is why I wish they wouldn't even try- it's just depressing. Truth be told, the only time the characters have really worked since Beck left in the 70's was in Kingdom Come, and when Giffen and DeMatteis put them into the middle of the Bwah Justice League, and played the hijinks off of Cap's straight-laced image, a vein they continued to work even in their Justice League Classified swan song of a couple of years ago. It worked, but only because the Marvels were round holes in a world full of square pegs. And the problem is, you just can't base a comics series on that sort of thing, unless you do it in comedic fashion a la Major Bummer. So here we have the newest revival attempt, in the aftermath of the whole Identity froofraw, and as these things go it's not awful- professionally written and drawn, and I suppose Cap's new role as yet another supernatural protector of Earth (kinda sounds like a leftover Life and Times of Juniper Lee plot, dunnit?) is as good a direction as any. He alsogets a new way to use his powers, which owes its conception to Kingdom Come and his lightning-powered beatdown of Superman I betcha. As a storyline which must needs fit in with the DCU As It Is, it's fine I guess, but none of the charm of the character in his original incarnation is there, no fun I guess, fun not being needed anymore in DidioWorld. I'm sure the next 11 issues will be as downbeat and solemn as the first, a prospect that doesn't excite me one iota. Of note is Howard Porter's new art style, which looks like it owes a debt to Dan Brereton and is actually an improvement on his often clumsy JLA work which brought him to prominence. Can't be as positive about the cover, though, which looks like Cap's angry because someone dropped a bucket of lemon Jello on his back. Or perhaps Gatorade, or Mountain Dew, or something a little less palatable even. And maybe that's appropriate for this revival after all. C+

An aside: For what it's worth, next year's Jeff Smith take on the character, which doesn't seem like it's going to be hampered by trying to jam it into DC canon, looks promising. Being neither a big fan of the character or the writer/artist, I don't know if I'll pick it up, but you never know.

S: Andrew Cosby, Michael A. Nelson; A: Greg Scott (Boom!, $3.99)

Taking shots at this isn't really sporting, I guess- it wears its 50's drive-in movie roots proudly on its shoulders, and it's not badly done. But if you've seen one "disparate group of people trapped on an island with monsters" story, you've seen them all, main inspiration Lost (or is that Survivor, heh) notwithstanding- and while I applaud the craft that went into it I neither care about the characters, many of which are mostly anonymous, nor do I really look forward to seeing them all get killed until the inevitable ambiguous ending. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. C+

S: Graymiotti; A: Billy Tucci, Jimmy Palmiotti. (Marvel, $2.99)

All right, Tucci, we get it: you can draw the ladies, especially if your idea of sexy ladies coincides with Jim Lee or J.Scott Campbell's idea of good girl art. Not all of us share this handicap, though (or at least I hope so), so I'll just go on and say that Gray and Palmiotti are able to successfully carry on the wit and funk that made Daughters of the Dragon such a left-field success in spite of your art, not because of it. I mean, seriously, how can you not love a book in which Shang-Chi, the bleedin' Master of Kung Fu fer chrissakes, just shows up out of the blue because he wishes to lend a hand (and foot) in the wake of the Civil War business? This is the first book I've bought that sports the CW dress, so as you might infer I'm pretty clueless about the whys and wherefores of that crossover event, other than what I've picked up via the internet and the dialogue here. Pro-superguy registration advocates Iron Man, Spidey and Reed Richards want Misty and Colleen and co. to assist the government in finding those superpeople who won't sign up for Selective Service or something like that, and they accept, conditionally. You just know those conditions will come back to haunt somebody eventually. Anyway, we get a few characters that were featured to good effect in DotD, and a few (Black Cat, Tarantula) that I could have lived without, and a nifty bait and switch at the end, and lots of wannabe poseheavy cheescake throughout. Not perfect, but still fun, and that's all I ask out of this book. I like fun, as I guess you can tell from reading my reviews. B

S: Graymiotti; A: Daniel Acuna (DC, $2.99)

On the other hand, you have this, which really isn't fun at all but I liked this a lot anyway- and the reason is, I suppose, that the glumness is balanced out by sharp characterization and welcome straightening out of the first issue's somewhat confusing narrative. Also, Graymiotti manage to give us the best handling of Uncle Sam since the unjustly ignored Alex Ross miniseries of a few years ago- his Sam is clever and wise and charismatic and folksy, all the things one would like an Uncle Sam to be. Acuna's art is less dark and cluttered this time out as well; he adds a lot of life into the proceedings with some nice page layouts and figure drawing. So far, this is shaping up to be my favorite Identity spinoff yet, out of a very limited field. A-

S/A: Scott Chantler (Oni Press, $8.95. Reviewed from B&W advance copy)

The third chapter of Northwest Passage is every bit as solid as the first two. Set in pre-Revolutionary War Canada, at a lone fort in the wilderness, Charles Lord has to resort to desperate measures to get it back from his cutthroat rival Montglave and his band of ruthless mercenaries, and also has to deal with the native population as well as his own tangled family relations. In this, the resolution of that storyline, some tough decisions have to be made and some unfortunate consquences ensue...and it's all done with a minimum of soap operatics and a strong amount of characterization. There's also some great action sequences, as well, especially in the climactic siege of the fort. I love everything about this series- the setting, the charismatic but vulnerable Lord, the varied and colorful cast of peripheral allies and enemies. You'd think that the cartoonish, almost Disneyesque art would work against it, but Chantler is too good for that- he is able to use an excellent command of facial expressions and body language, and especially a great talent for drawing the backgrounds, both interior and exterior, that the subject matter demands, all in crisp and exciting fashion, so as with, say, a great Tintin tale the style compliments rather than conflicts with the story it's trying to tell. In fact, Chantler even uses Herge-like script in his word balloons, so I'd bet that the great Belgian was a huge influence. Sadly, in the afterword, Chantler tells us that there's going to be a hiatus between this and #4- other projects and personal stuff will take precedence. Understandable, but that makes me sad because for my money, there are few titles coming out right now from any publisher better than Northwest Passage...and I hope the hiatus won't be long. A

BEST: Northwest Passage.
AVOID: X-Isle, although it's not terrible.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm sure you've heard by now about Lea Hernandez's terrible house fire- I didn't find out until just an hour or so ago. I hope to be able to contribute a pittance of some sort a little later...but if you are where you can right now, she's accepting donations at her Paypal account. Here's her account address and some more info.
In case you care, I have now officially started a new season of JOHNNY B'S FEARLESS NFL PICKS over at the LiveJournal, so go, check it out and make fun of my cluelessness, whydoncha?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Damn damn damn. I had full reviews of All-Star Superman 5, Sidescrollers, Jack of Fables 2, and Daredevil 88 written and while I was typing my left hand accidentally pressed down the control key while I hit another, and *poof*. Gone. Didn't save it as a draft or anything. I am now too angry and pissed off and put out to go back and type them over, even if I could remember what I I'll just do it later, when I'm calmer.

You've all been there, right?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Here's the way it works, apparently: since I don't really know of any resources extant by which to be informed of comics creators' birthdays, generally I see them at Comics Reporter or the Beat, and a day later I pass them along.

Which is the case in my first BSBdG: Gentleman GENE COLAN aka "The Dean" (so nice, Stan nicknamed him twice), who turned 80 yesterday. I couldn't tell you the first time I saw Colan's distinctive, fluid art in a comic; probably an Iron Man under the "Adam Austin" pseudonym he used upon occasion. I also have an old coverless issue of Warren's Eerie in which he did a gorgeously inkwashed horror tale, so that may have been it. Anyway, he was one of the Gods of Comics as far as I was concerned; he drew just about every Marvel superhero and supernatural book at one time or another for over a dozen years- most notably Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Iron Man in Tales of Suspense, but he had what I consider excellent stints on Captain America and The Avengers as well. Hell, he even drew an issue of Amazing Adventures with Killraven! Then of course, there's Tomb of Dracula, which he drew an amazingly long time (I think every issue, as a matter of fact, but there may have been a fill-in; this was 1970's Marvel after all) and most certainly can be regarded as his crowning career achievement. Unfortunately, after ToD eventually wore down and got canned he went to DC in the 1980's, and while his work was still high quality he just didn't seem to have the same spark. I wrote a bit about him the other day; guess you can tell he's one of my, in that phrase I tend to over-use I know, all time favorite artists.

Also, Spurge informs us that today is the 60th birthday of WALT SIMONSON. Simonson's art was just so radical and different, with its dynamic action staging and everpresent clever onomatopoeia that it grabbed me hard and wouldn't let go. First time I ever saw Simonson's work was in Detective Comics #438, which featured chapter two of the excellent Manhunter serial he did with the late great Archie Goodwin. I have always been notorious for picking up great comics in their second issues. Anyway, blew me away, it did, and I followed Simonson's DC career religously thereafter on such fringe books as Metal Men and Hercules Unbound (covers above). He did two of my all-time fave Batman stories as well: "The Cape and Cowl Deathtrap" from Detective #450, in which his art completely transformed and invigorated into what would have been a mediocre story in the hands of many others, and Batman#312, in which Simonson and Len Wein revamp the Calendar Man, and made me a fan of the character. When Walt went to Marvel later, he had a nice run on Mighty Thor which a lot of folks revere; me, I liked it, thought it was fun, but it didn't really blow me away like it has so many others. I didn't pick up on what he did thereafter all that much; 1980's and 1990's Marvel was just not putting out comics that I wanted to read, with very few exceptions, so I probably missed out on some good Simonson stuff, but I doubt it. Towards the end of the 90's, he went back to DC for a damn good writer/artist run on Kirby's Fourth World, in the Orion book, which I consider the best handling of Kirby's oft-misused creations since the King himself laid his pencil down after finishing Mister Miracle #18.

As a special bonus birthday spotlight, here's a page of art from some of Simonson's earliest work- Sword of Sorcery #5, an adaptation of Fritz Leiber's "The Sunken Land" scripted by Denny O'Neil and featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. As I'm sure you recall, I just got a set of those, and I thought the timing was fortuitous! As the saying goes, click to see it all biggerish.

And while I'm thinking about it, Happy Labor Day weekend from all of me to all of youse. Yes, I still have reviews to write- I'm getting even more behinder since I got a new comics shipment yesterday. Today's not looking good; I have two fantasy football drafts to participate in, which in the case of the one tonight means much drunkeness. And of course, the upcoming NFL season means another round of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Picks, most likely over on the LJ. Can you stand the wait? Work at the radio station tomorrow morning, so it's looking like (barring extreme hangover) that tomorrow afternoon or Monday is our best bet. In case you care.