Monday, October 30, 2006

Image Hosted by may be wondering what I thought about Hellboy: Sword of Storms. Short answer? I liked it. I didn't love it, but for what it's worth I liked it better than the film.

The animation style, once again that Westernized anime style, managed to not be too derivative of any one particular strain, but wasn't quite in that Justice League Unlimited/Teen Titans Go! style either. It was actually quite lavish, with many beautifully detailed backgrounds. Expressions were very good. The character designs themselves too a little getting used to, not so much Hellboy and Abe, who were pretty close to that Mignolaesque canonical look, but the young and hawt Liz and especially Kate Corrigan, who looks to be in her mid-thirties as drawn by Mignola and Guy Davis. Many of the actual facial expressions, oddly enough, reminded me a lot of Davis' work as seen in the B.P.R.D. series that he's become such a mainstay of. The Japanese characters especially had the Davis touch. The animation itself was fluid and lively, and the fight scenes benefitted from that a lot. That said, there was some dodgy editing going on- one or two scenes ended rather abruptly, especially at the end, and Cartoon Network didn't help by breaking away for commercials every five minutes.

Story-wise, I wish it had been a bit more original; the doomed lovers and storm-gods thing has been done here and there in other places. I especially couldn't help but be reminded of the aforementioned Titans' Thunder and Lightning twins, and more often as not there were strong elements of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers all over. I was happy to see that the film's embarrassing and silly "Hellboy crushing on Liz" subplot was not in evidence; and I liked Abe much more here than his prissy cinematic counterpart. I think that it also felt a bit padded and stretched-out; there just wasn't enough story to justify a 90-minute runtime. That said, I did enjoy the straight-from-the-comics floating-head Japanese vampire sequence; lotsa fun for those of us who love the source material.

Altogether, I thought this was a success, although a qualified one; a lot of time and care went into the design and animation and it showed. I hope to see the other one soon- I hope that a bit more thought is put into the story this time!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hello! Good evening!

I have a metric ton of comics stuff I want and/or need to write, but it probably won't be tonight (Animated Hellboy coming on soon) or tomorrow (NFL, plus radio station tomorrow morning). Maybe Monday, who knows.

Typical- I get a boost from all the kind words on the occasion of my blogaversary the other day...then don't post the rest of the week! Thanks especially to Neilalien and the Eye of Agamotto for the special boxed-in shoutout, and all the rest of you who cared to post as well!

My NFL picks are up, in case you care.

I didn't get my comics box yesterday; DHL says it's still in transit, and should be delivered Monday. Oh well, like I said up there I still have a shitload of new books to review anyway, like Mystery in Space 2 and Heroes for Hire 3, as well as that gorgeous Fables hardcover graphic novel.

So be patient with me, and I'll be patient with you, mkay?

Time for Hellboy! See ya!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Even though I still haven't finished writing about my LAST shipment, I know many of you out there are asking yourselves "Exactly what is Dave going to get from DCBS this week?" And I'm here to set your collective minds at ease. My box, if you please:

100 BULLETS #77

Pretty big haul, eh? I'm hoping that Seven Soldiers will ship; it's still on my invoice, and they haven't notified me otherwise, so I'm assuming that it will be there. But as we all know, as Steven Seagal's scriptwriter for Under Siege 2 so cleverly put it, "Assumption is the mother of all fuckups."

I'm also looking forward to rereading those collected issues of Scout; I had a pretty good run of that Tim Truman title back in the day but didn't keep them when I sold most of my original collection back in 1987. It's too bad that the backup feature for many of them, J.K. Synder's Fashion in Action, won't be included. The Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger collection is also something I'm anticipating; many of those really early issues I've never read, or haven't in at least two decades, maybe more. Of course, I'm always happy to get new issues of Planetary, Desolation Jones(I've liked what I've seen of new artist Danijel Zezelj in the past),Catwoman, Daredevil, and Nextwave. Not so eagerly anticipated are titles I've already decided to bail on and am just playing out the string: Creeper, Checkmate, and Shadowpact. I'm liking Uncle Sam OK so far, and I'm still making an effort to get into Casanova, just because something tells me I should.

Oh, and I also got the Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall HC! And uf cuss I'll review it soon.

And yes, I crossposted this from the LJ. Just because.

OK, thanks for your time, you may now resume normal activity, whatever that may be.
IT'S ABOUT TIME, IT'S ABOUT SPACE, IT'S ABOUT TIME FOR THE BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVIEW! In which I inflict my opinions of comics that I have read in the interval from October 4 to October 24 upon anyone who'll care to read...some of which may even still be on sale in your local comics shop!


S: B.Clay Moore; A: Jeremy Haun. (Oni Press, $3.50)

The plot thickens as our hero is captured by the enemy, and his right-hand man, another superspy and an actress who got a bit too nosy are left to figure out what to do next. Although sometimes it comes across as slick as a TV series pitch, it's still a good read- fast paced and never dull, with great dialogue and good art by Haun, whose motto remains "Background detail? I don't need no steenkin' background detail!". Actually, I like this better than any other BC Moore project to date save for Hawaiian Dick, so if that tells you anything, go out and get this. Or wait for the trade, if you must. A-

S: Brett Lewis; A: John Paul Leon. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Raise your hand if you remember what happened in #4, which seems to have come out a small eternity ago. You know me- I've always been on record as saying that I'm more than happy to wait on creators to get their books out, regardless of Philistine solicitation dates and such...better late than a fill-in! But a comic this dense and elaborate probably shouldn't be this late if it knows what's good for it. Oh well- I didn't really know what to expect from this by now; first, it's a nine-issue series, then it isn't, then it's five issues with a big double-sized grand finale next issue...whoo-eee. It starts out with a brief recap of the fragmented Winter Men squadron storyline which may never get fully explored, becomes another of the delightful Soviet-based crime stories that have been done well in the previous issues (the "Mr. Boss" scenes are hilarious), then abruptly becomes a Christmas story (!), all with the great dialogue and involved plotting that has been a hallmark, no pun intended, of this series so far. And, of course, Leon is as solid as always, especially as he helps us navigate the chaotic Christmas party at the end- he does a great job of depicting all the craziness that goes on. Winter Men ISN'T an easy read, which I'm sure you know by now, but it's enjoyable just the same- especially if you're a fan of Russia-based fiction, sly humor, well-done dramatics, and outstanding art. And really, aren't we all- at least three of the four? A

S: Brian Michael Bendis; A: Michael Avon Oeming. (Marvel/Icon, $2.95)

Against the odds, this has become quite the compelling storyline with principals Walker and Pilgrim both dealing with their superpowered crime beat even as they struggle with newly acquired powers of their own. Sure the plot, at least the bare bones of it, reminds of previous story arcs in this series, but he's managing to dress it up so it's not so familiar. Bendis wore out his welcome with me on Daredevil, but to his credit he's still in there pitching on this, and the effort is gratifying. As always, Oeming piles on plenty of mood and black ink, and even though his style seems to be getting more and more stylized each month he's still hitting on all cylinders. If you bailed on this some time ago, like I almost did, you might consider checking it out again- you might be pleasantly surprised. A-

S/A: Chris Wisnia. (Salt Peter Press, $3.95)
S: Chris Wisnia; A: Wisnia, Dick Ayers, and a host of pinup artists. (Salt Peter Press, $9.95)

In Dr. Debunko, the Vincent Price circa 1949 lookalike title character makes it his calling to disprove all manner of "alleged spiritual, supernatural, psychic, superstitious, folkloric, or government conspiratorial beliefs", which usually means that he comes upon or is called in to some sort of weird occurrence, and manages to explain it away in tongue-in-cheek, and often amusing, fashion. I'm not wild about the art- it's very grubby and sloppy, kinda reminds me of Tom Sutton after a three-day bender, and doesn't help the story very much. So what's poor Mr. Wisnia to do? Why, get Timely/Atlas/Marvel stalwart Dick Ayers (I didn't even know he was still with us!) to ink his pencils on the oversize Doris Danger stories! And this stuff is right up his alley, too- basically sendups of those old Lee/Kirby/Ditko pre-Fantastic Four Marvel giant monster stories, you know the ones, with monsters that had names that sounded like noises one's stomach makes after eating too much chili or something. These are pretty funny as well; if you like the remixed satire comics Marvel and Boom have been putting out lately, this is a lot like that...except with all-original art instead of relettered public domain comics stories. The tabloid-sized format adds a lot, too- it's strangely fitting to read about big creatures with names like "Fuggabluh", "Aaahblaah" and "Scrohtu" twice-up normal size. It's rounded out with pinup pages by some pretty good artists, like Mike Mignola, the Hernandez Bros., Gene Colan (an especially good piece), Tony Millionaire(!), and others. Not a bad deal for your ten bucks, kids! For more info on this and Wisnia's other publications, go to, and tell 'em Johnny B sent ya! Dr. Debunko: B-; Doris Danger: B+.

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

This interesting-in-spite-of-itself ripoff of Ennis' own Hitman continues as Tommy, I mean Butcher, meets the reluctant Wee Hughie at the airport and introduces him to Natt the Hat and the rest of Section Eight, I mean "Mother's Milk" and the bad-guy ass-kicking team. And just because it's not derivative enough, he mixes in a generous helping of Rick Veitch's Brat Pack, not to mention one of the subplots of Alan Moore's Top 10 series. Ennis can write this shite in his sleep, and probably does. C+

DMZ 12
S/A: Brian Wood. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Wood felt the time was right for a Fodor's Travel Guide to the DMZ NYCNY, so that's what we get. And while it's great to see so much Wood art in one place in service of a story of sorts, that doesn't necessarily make this interesting reading...although I can't help but think that further on down the road this will come in handy. B

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

Even though Remender's trying pretty hard, I think, giving us some lively new characters in former demon buddy Bloato's hairy-legged daughters, and a clever sequence in which our Girl summons up a quite unexpected visitor...there's still something about this book which remains uninvolving to me. Can't put my finger on it- maybe next issue. I like Stakal's sloppy but solid art; it reminds me a lot of Duncan Fregredo's early Vertigo-era stuff like Enigma B+

S: Mike Carey; A: Glenn Fabry. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

This one's been a bit of a problem to review on a monthly basis- Carey has done a marvelous job of adapting Gaiman's novel, and Fabry has done a superlative job of illustrating it, and that's pretty much what I've been saying for the last six or so months. I think it's saying something when a comic book adaptation of a novel can enhance and exceed my enjoyment of the source, which almost never happens, and let me encourage you to get the trade, which will soon be released. If you have any stomach at all for this sort of high-toned urban fantasy, you'll love it. A

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

Spotlight's on Bob the Marvel Boy and his Uranus (hey- Parker didn't resist, why should I?) as our boy Jeff takes it upon himself to tie up six decades' worth of convoluted backstory in the space of 18 pages, and pretty much succeeds. Halfway in, it's become kinda apparent to me that this is what this miniseries is all about- not so much the group of reunited superheroes facing off against the Yellow Claw and the Atlas Corporation, but stage-setting, tying up of loose ends, and consolidation, all paving the way for what I hope will be many more issues of the ongoing series that has not been announced but I, for one, hope will be coming up when this is concluded. Great job all around on script and art, and in case you're keeping score at home, like I am, even more Venus. A-

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Mike Allred (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

The Adversary Strikes Back continues as we meet Hansel and Gretel. Oily Hansel's a real piece of work, a former Matthew Hopkins type who was exiled from Fabletown for his crimes years ago but now has diplomatic immunity as the "Emperor"'s ambassador, which causes no end of consternation among the Fabletown Powers That Be. Most of the issue is taken up with Willingham's by-now typically clever twist on the old Hansel & Gretel fairytale, and it has some surprising wrinkles. Leialoha doesn't ink all of this, some of it's done by DC Art Drone Andrew Pepoy, and it makes me sad (for Leialoha, who used to do such idiosyncratic, clever work on his own) that I can't tell where one starts and one stops. Backup story's by Allred, and it revisits Mundy writer Kevin Thorne, who knows about Fabletown and its residents but won't/cant tell anyone. Why, I can't remember- nor can I recall where he first appeared, but for six pages of a man walking his dog and reflecting on Fabletown justice, it's pretty darn good. A-

DORK! 11
S/A: Evan Dorkin. (Slave Labor, $2.95)

30 pages' worth of throwing crap, the GOOD kind of crap that is, at the wall, and lo and behold, 95% of it sticks! You'd think Dorkin would mellow with age, but far from it- his rapid-fire, densely-clustered, nothing-sacred joke strips and panels are as acerbic as ever. If you're a fan, this will be like manna from some rancid heaven, and if you're not, well, you owe it to yourself to check this out. I guarantee you'll get a laugh from something on every page, and that's a hell of a thing in these troubled times.

Here's a veritable explosion of Boom! Studios titles...

S: Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes; A: Rafael Albuquerque ($3.99)
S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: "Chee" ($2.99)
S: Andrew Cosby, Michael Alan Nelson; A: Greg Scott ($2.99)
S: Keith Giffen, Joe Casey, Kevin Church, Stokes; A: Steve Ditko, various ($3.99)

The second issue of Savage Bros. is as funky and fun as the first; Albuquerque is doing a nice Jock-ish job on the art chores and Cosby is writing the Bros. in fine Mad Max-meets-Dukes of Hazzard form, with a generous helping of surreal weirdness to boot. A-. I continue to be completely indifferent to Second Wave, or whatever they're calling it this month; I have noticed that the art has simplified and cleared up to the point that I'm reminded of Bob Burden, especially on the double-page spread of pages 12 & 13, which features Martian ships that look like cow heads. D+. I don't watch Lost, I'm just not interested in what seems, from the outside looking in, to be one of the most convoluted and excessive opuses to ever air on the Tube. So I have even less of a reason to care about X Isle, which covers too much of the same sandy ground to provoke any reaction from me. Greg Scott is still doing a fair John Paul Leon imitation, though. C+ Finally, there are some chuckles here and there throughout Monster Mash-Up, Boom!'s latest remix comic, and some nice primo-era Ditko art ( as well as a shorty from Rocco Mastroserio, whom I remember from many 1960's issues of Creepy and Eerie) to gaze upon as while I wasn't convulsed with laughter, I was mildly entertained, and that's par for the course for these What Were They Thinking!? comics. B

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon, $2.99)

I was almost afraid to read this; I just didn't think it could live up to the hype, not to mention the anticipation I had built up in my own mind. But after putting it off a day or two, I finally said to heck with it and dived right in...and I'm delighted to say that it not only meets expectations, but exceeds them as well. Brubaker's no-frills script is as solid as it comes; he gives us a handful of interesting characters who are interesting right off the bat; there won't be any two or three issue stringing-along and getting acquainted. And I'm dead certain that these characters will only get more interesting as time goes on. And like all good collaborations, Phillips' excellent, thoughtful art enhances and amplifies this strong script; the first scene which really brought this out as I read was the aftermath of our introduction to main character (so far) Leo's friend (and friend of his late father) Ivan...Leo's despair and frustration was palpable thanks to Phillips' outstanding mood-setting illustration work (with an able assist from colorist Val Staples), and Sean also excels at enhancing the feel of the city and lowlife scenarios in which our Leo walks through and narrates to us, the reader. I have a feeling that we might be looking at the apex of his already-distinguished career. I still have concerns that the subject matter just isn't "sexy" enough to capture the attention of the vast majority of fanboys and fanmen, who seem to turn up their nose at practically anything that doesn't have costumes or zombies it it, but that will be their loss, and I hope those who have a more discerning bent will enjoy this ride (as we all did with Sleeper) until its all-too-quick conclusion. A

S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Eric Battle, Prentiss Rollins, Cliff Chiang (DC, $3.99)

I was in my LCS a couple of days ago with some time to kill on my lunch break, and thought I'd pick up something off the rack to read. I had seen this out, but declined to buy right away because I don't like one single thing about the whole post-IC Crispus Allen Spectre state of affairs, even though ol' Spec has always been one of my favorite characters. The Doc Thirteen backup was intriguing, but I didn't want to drop tree-fitty on what I perceived as a slight showcase for a character that I always at best kinda-sorta liked, back when he was serving as straight-man to the Phantom Stranger in the Seventies (I did think, however, there was a ton of potential there if someone was sharp enough to realize it). When I paged through this, though, I noticed that the Doc Thirteen tale was no less than 16 pages long, plus I found nothing else that piqued my interest, so I said to heck with it and picked it up to read with my Taco Bell burrito and Mountain Dew. Glad I did, mostly- the Spectre lead is crap, pure and simple; whoever the heck thought it was a good idea to resurrect the McFarlane-era Spawn style of comics in 2006 deserves a visit from the Mike Fleisher/Jim Aparo Spectre of yore. But the Doc Thirteen backup is actually a very nice tale, as the Doc investigates mysterious phenomena that happened to the passengers of a plane that crashed in the French Alps, with his snarky daughter in tow, and encounters an oldish, obscure DC character, the revelation of whom at the end becomes the first time the title lives up to its name. I've always been kind of hot-and-cold on Chiang's art; sometimes he's capable of doing solid work in a Dave Mazzuchelli-mode, and sometimes his work can look staid and dull. Here, it's quite good...and compared to the art team on the lead feature, he looks like Alex fricking Toth. I'm also a bit surprised at how straightforward and uncluttered Azzarello's narrative is; based on 100 Bullets and Loveless, I usually expect an endurance test worthy of Matt Fraction. But here, he tells his story with a minimum of fuss and got on my good side by having Doc T refer to his kid as "peanut", which gave me fond memories of Dead Like Me even though I'm sure nothing could be farther from his intent. Even though he finally resorted to the hoary groaning cliche of having the character refer to himself by the title of his comic book adventures (at least he didn't say House of Mystery presents..., which is as close to a spoiler as you'll get from me), I didn't mind all that much. As long as we get an Azz/Chiang Doctor Thirteen, I'll continue to get this. I'd give the Dr. T story an A-, but the Spectre lead drags it down to a B+.

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Paul Gulacy (DC, $2.99)

The Wheel of Art continues to spin, and this time lands on a winner. Even though I had liked some of Gulacy's efforts in the 70's and 80's, I absolutely loathed his crass approach to Catwoman; especially after the Darwyn Cooke-style look the book had tried to maintain prior to his coming aboard- it was just awful and wrong. But here, he's slightly more in his element in this tale of double crosses and (slightly understandable, for once, if such a thing can be) religious intolerance as Jonah takes up with a band of Mormon settlers who just want to buy provisions for the winter from a small-town big-fish general store owner, who in turn blames the Mormons for a massacre which had happened previously, to the point of hiring a band of oddball mercenary killers (each with a peculiar quirk- shades of the Wild Wild West, the TV show, not the horrid film) to get rid of all of them. The story could have been a contrived mess, but never crossed that line, and Gulacy really brought home the glum, bitter rancor at the heart of it. Great job, says I, and I would love to see him do more Hexes. After Jordi Bernet gets his turn, of course. A-

S: Brian Vaughan; A: Marcos Martin, Alvaro Lopez (Marvel, $2.99)

Here's another one which was hyped to the heavens, mostly because of a clever opening sequence involving Iron Fist and one of Marvel's legion of Spider-Girls, and had me a bit apprehensive because I may be second only to Neilalien in my desire to see a good Doc Strange story. The recent Dead Girl mini came close, but as far as Doc went it was blunted a bit by the apparent perception among Marvel decision makers that the reason why Doc doesn't catch on to a wider audience is because he comes across as pompous, arrogant, and stiff- so as far back as the Giffen/DeMatties/Maguire Defenders, we get a somewhat smart-assed Doc, who's as likely to make a quip at his own expense as he is to hurl a Ditkoesque force bolt. Vaughan, who (as I'm sure you know if you've read me any length of time at all) has underwhelmed me completely via the books I've tried (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, all of which left me cold) straddles the line pretty well here, and his dialogue is as natural and unforced as I've ever read it. Even so, Vaughan still toes the editorial mandate and gives us Absent-Minded Doc, who also misquotes the Hippocratic Oath and fails to inform Night Nurse that "Master of the Mystic Arts" was a title that was bestowed upon him (by Stan Lee or Steve Englehart, if no one else- Neilalien- Where and who gave him this honorary?), and not one he gave himself. At least we were spared the ongoing hemorrhoid jokes of Pete Milligan's take. And if it sounds like I'm being hard on ol' BKV, I'm not- actually, I've quite happily surprised that I admired the clever idea for a story arc, liked most of the back-and-forth banter, and was impressed by the depiction of Doc being tormented at his inability to help Wong with his terminal condition here. But make no mistake- it's the art that I love the most about this. As with the Batgirl: Year One series a while back, Martin's layouts and pacing really enliven the script, and Lopez' line is as deft and sinuous as ever. Together they are one of my absolute favorite art teams, and if the story has anything going for it at all (unlike the recent Breach), I will buy it just to see them do their thing. A very good start for what could be the best Strange Tale since the 1970's came to an end. A

DOG OF THE WEEK(S): SECOND WAVE. Love those Boom! guys, but that title sucks all the air out of the room.

Getting a new shipment on Friday, plus I've received some more Boom! books and other stuff, so coming very soon- more reviews! This time of NEWER books!
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With this post, I began something which has certainly turned out to be a lot more than I thought it would ever be. I've made friends, online though they may be and thus ones I'm unlikely to ever meet, but I'm no less grateful for them...and have had the opportunity to hold forth about the things I enjoy in front of a good-sized audience of people, and have felt a great amount of satisfaction and gratitude when someone out there saw fit to link to a particular post, or this blog in general.

Of course, there have been disappointing and sad times as well- my link being dropped from someone's page for no apparent reason and leaving me to assume that they just don't like what I'm doing or just don't like me period, perfectly valid but no less saddening, as well as a couple of higher-profile writing gigs which just didn't work out for this or that reason. None of these, for good or ill, would have come to pass if I hadn't launched this blog.

But on this, the occasion of my FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY, I remain inclined to continue regardless. My posts have become more and more infrequent over here, and it's pretty much turned into a comics only blog instead of the movies, music, sports etc. one that it's been in the past. I'm compelled to write, and still plan to do so whenever I can, but work and life pressures are making that more and more difficult as time goes by. All I can do is thanks you all for reading, and hope you continue to check in with me over here from time to time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Some interesting news for me, longtime and backsliding Hellblazer fan that I am...

...Andy Diggle will be the new regular writer on HELLBLAZER, the imprint?s longest-running series, starting with issue #230, hitting stores in March.

Diggle, best known for lengthy and acclaimed runs on titles such as THE LOSERS, SWAMP THING, LADY CONSTANTINE and ADAM STRANGE...

Only one of which really grabbed me, and I flat out hated the third one in that list. But what the hey- I'm so unimpressed with Denise Mina's efforts that I welcome the change and will keep on buying the book just to see if he can channel that Losers magic again.

Here's the CBR article from whence the above came.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I know, long time no blog. It's like Christine Lahti's character said on last night's Studio 60: "Lately, I haven't had much interest in being interesting."

I'm working on the next Hammerlocke overview, as well as the next New Comics Revue, none of which will be up tonight but hopefully before the week is over. Just in case anyone's checking. Sorry it's been so dead around here; I sincerely hope nobody's been concerned about it all that much. My four-year blogiversary is coming up next week, so you can rest assured I'll have something up by then!

Until later, may every song you sing be your favorite tune...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good evening! A couple of quick notes:

First, look below this one for the second mammoth Hammerlocke post; there will be at least four more. %$#@!$# Chipper didn't update my listing (you know, the Comics Weblog Update site), so I don't know how many of you are aware that I have indeed finally gotten this overview off the ground.


There's SPX. Of course, you know I won't be there- I'm too broke, as usual, to drive across town, let alone to Maryland...but if you're going to be there, stop by and check out the Fatalsyia table, which will be manned by writer Liam Kemp, and who will have a brand-spanking new edition of his supernatural fantasy story, with art provided by "U!" and my good friend Chris Tabor, who does covers and an interior pinup page or two. And one other person was involved- me! No, not like that- heaven forbid I should draw anything. But they chose the print shop where I work to do the printing honors, and I did the prepress. Why not toss some coin his way if you get the chance? Tell 'em Johnny B says hi.

Finally, I think I just might be going to see an artist I've been wanting to catch for decades now- Maria Muldaur! Over the last few years, she's played mostly on the coasts...but she's going to be doing a "Woodsongs Old-Time Radio" radio/web broadcast on Monday night in Lexington, KY, about an hour and a half or so from here. It's only 5 bucks to get in, so I'm thinking I should take advantage of this opportunity. You may recall a couple of years ago I went up there and caught a performance by the Acoustic Strawbs, and enjoyed it very much, even getting to meet the guys after the show. Right now Maria's done an album of Bob Dylan (she's a contemporary of his- they used to play a lot of the same venues in the early 60's) love songs, so I guess I'll expect a lot of Zimmy tunes. Betcha a dollar she'll do "Midnight at the Oasis", though. Also on the bill is Nashville musician Will Kimbrough; I've never met him myself, but I have friends who are friends. I've heard some of his stuff over the years, it wasn't bad. Looks like a good evening, if I can just afford to get up there and get there on time- I'll have to leave work early.

That's all I got for now. Good night.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hammer Locke, Part Two.

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Before I begin, I suppose some character bios are in order, because there are plenty of players in this little opus- not as many as in a year's worth of X-Men, mind you, but plenty just the same.

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SIR ARCHER ("HAMMER") LOCKE. The man whose vison and engineering skills created the Starbridge, enabling the Olympus project. Lost his limbs in a mysterious accident as he was inspecting the Bridge- when he came to, his arms and legs had been replaced by cybernetic technology, making him super strong but robbing him of what he perceived as his humanity. Distraught over this development, and disillusioned with the project and his life, he abruptly vanished, leaving his wife Miranda in charge. As the events of #1 begin, he has decided to return for equally mysterious reasons, unaware of recent events which will affect his life in grave fashion.

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MIRANDA ALVAREZ-LOCKE- Head of the Olympus Project, and estranged wife of Archer Locke. A tough, no-nonsense Latina, she hates Archer for up and leaving like he did, without a fare-thee-well, and is not particularly happy to hear about his return; she thinks he's grandstanding, and coming back like the cavalry to save the day as the beleaguered Project fends off terrorist attacks by Hugo Tharn's Ecotechnic League. She also is a longtime friend of Webster Christie, how close the two may have been pre-Archer is only inferred.

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AMANDA LOCKE- Daughter of Archer and Miranda, and a unwitting pawn of Tharn's vendetta against her father and his creation.

WEBSTER CHRISTIE- Close friend of the Lockes...I think Joseph Cotten, and the type of roles he used to play, when I see him. Christie was head of the research team that created GALT, the supercomputer that runs the daily operations of not only the Starbridge, but the city that surrounds Olympus. He's quite British and fond of quoting Shakespeare and Byron at the drop of a hat. He is also beginning to suspect that GALT is developing an intelligence of its own...

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LIEUTENANT PATRICK NEKEMTE- Assigned by Peacegarda, the military arm of the Hammerlocke Earth, as a escort/liaison to Sir Archer upon his return. The two men strike up a lasting friendship, cemented by the events of this tale. Eventually he becomes an Admiral, and spends his later years overseeing a terraforming project on Mars, where he is interviewed by Felicity Von Starben, who's writing a story about the Starbridge crisis many years later. Lt. Nekemte is quite young when these events take place, and is a bit naive sometimes, but is no less capable. Plus, he has sweet Stevie Wonder cornrows.

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JACOB KINGMAN-RHEE- Not a Guardian of Oa, but head of UNICORN ("It was an age of acronyms", says Nekemte), which stands for United Nations International Covert Operations and Research Network, Rhee has his fingers in many not-so-nice pies. It was he who authorized Sir Archer's cybernetic augmentation, as well as overseeing the creation of a number of genetically enhanced operatives. Cool and calculating, and not someone to be trusted although his actions can be justified from an objective standpoint.

HUGO THARN- Mysterious leader of the Ecotechnic League, a group which seeks to stem mankind's advancement at the expense of Mother Earth by any means necessary. His base of operations is under Antarctica, and it is his special vendetta against Sir Archer which spurs the events of this series. He is also able to transfer his consciousness into the computers of his lair, as well as animate any number of robots of various sizes. At one point in the narrative, it is revealed that he used to be a fantasy fiction writer, whose work "Tales of Faraway" is a favorite of Sahara Skyhawk.

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CACTUS JAQ- one of Kingman-Rhee's special operatives, Jaq (short for "Jacqueline") is described (on the official Miscmayhemproductions Hammer Locke site, started by Tom Joyner but not updated since 2003...more on that later) as a "Psi-talented 'techno-savant' whose affinity for machines is augmented by cybernetically enhanced strength and reflexes and data-jack hardware for direct brain-to-computer linkups". She's also a crack shot, and likes to play cowgirl...making her seem like, among those who are inclined to make such comparisons, as a grown-up Sheriff Ida Red. She is Sahara Skyhawk's partner in more ways than one, and together they are one of UNICORN's most effective teams.

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SAHARA SKYHAWK- another genetic creation of Rhee and his scientists, Sahara is a childlike young lady who was endowed with metallic, razor-sharp wings in place of arms and hands. She's capable of flying at high speeds and is very dangerous when needs be. She's also devoted to her best friend with benefits Jaq, although she does have a brief flirtatious relationship with Lt. Nekemte.

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THE PHADE- Another of UNICORN's genetic experiments, the Phade, real name unknown, is a special operative in charge of security at the Olympus Project. His abilities are similar to those of the Vision- he can become intangible at will and phase through solid matter. Unlike the Vision, he's not an android. Plus, he's quite ruthless and efficient, as we'll find out later.

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KING HENRY IX- Hugo Tharn's other captive, and quite possibly the last King of England. His role in this isn't immediately apparent, nor is it clear how long he's been Tharn's prisoner.

OK, that's nearly all the major- and some not-so major- players. Shall we begin? And just in case you might want to go to the trouble of hunting these comics down in your quarter bins someday, let me sound a ***SPOILER ALERT***...I'm going to spoil the heck out of the next nine issues- but hopefully I won't spoil everything, so just be careful and keep that in mind. Go!

ISSUE 1 begins with a meeting between Felicity Von Starben, a freelance writer who is in the process of composing a holotext report on what she describes as "Hammerlocke and the Starbridge Crisis of 2033". Her interview subject, Admiral Nekemte, who is the last living witness who would consent to an interview. He begins with an account of the kidnapping of Archer Locke's daughter Amanda, a Broadway actress, by mercenary soldiers hired by Hugo Tharn, insane would-be "Avatar of Gaea" and leader of the Ecotechnic League, who is determined to stop the advancement of humanity to the stars by any means necessary. The soldiers set a trap for Amanda as she enters her apartment building after an evening out with boyfriend Geoff. Things look bleak for Miss Locke when suddenly agents of UNICORN, Cactus Jaq and Sahara Skyhawk, intervene.Apparently UNICORN had been warned about the impending kidnapping and dispatched their best team to prevent it. One of the mercs gets off a lucky shot, winging Sahara, and they escape with their target. Next up is an interlude that features Jacob Kingman-Rhee being debriefed on the kidnapping; apparently he intends to turn these events to his own end, and gain control of the Olympus Project for UNICORN. Flash forward to the future, or actually the "real time" that we're getting these events from Von Starben and Nekemte, and an explanation of the whys and wherefores of the Starbridge.

Next, we meet Webster Christie and Miranda Alvarez-Locke, as Christie breaks the news to her that her husband's returning, which sends her into a rage at how it all seems to be slipping through her fingers. Christie gives her a pep-talk, and renews Miranda's resolve to stay on top of things.

Hours later, Miranda's inspecting the "Yard", or the trains that are set to go up in the Starbridge to carry goods bound for various extraterrestrial destinations. The Phade flies in through the wall, scaring the heck out of everyone, and announces that all the munitions trains seem to be in order, but he's wary that the Ecotechnics are planning something...just as he notices marks on one of the trains' access doors, right on cue a large cargo-carrying robot goes on a destructive rampage nearby. The Phade and Miranda manage to blow the 'Bot up, but the train in question has already gone on its way.

Next scene, we see two men helping each other climb up a mountain outside the Olympus colony. We soon find out that it is none other than Sir Archer Locke and his escort, Lt. Nekemte. Locke wished to be dropped off close to the mountain so he could scale it and look once more upon his creation- it's just a brief glimpse of the title character, but there will be more. Moving on, Webster and the Phade greet Kingman-Rhee, Jaq, and Sahara as they arrive at Olympus. Rhee calls Christie aside and delivers the news about the kidnapping, and the latter, in turn, informs Miranda, who's feeling invigorated at being in danger and taking matters into her own hands earlier. As she asks "Where's Archer", we finally get to see a full-on shot of Hammerlocke himself, standing atop the mountain with Lt. Nekemte and reflecting. As this goes on, we go back to Miranda's apartment where the Phade is informing her that there's more to the day's events than meets the eye- someone used the rampaging robot as a diversion, using another man's security code, which is impossible unless one has access to GALT without the computer's knowledge, and that's not supposed to happen. As Nekemte, on the mountain, tells Locke what Peacegarda High Command wants for him to do- for him to help return Olympus to full operational status after the terrorist attacks, even offering him a commission. Locke doesn't want to get involved and tangle with Tharn and his League...he's got his own agenda and informs the Lieutenant in no uncertain terms. Back at Miranda's, the Phade goes on to inform her that the departed train was carrying munitions, and since other trains have left they can't recall it.

At this, we go back to Locke and Nekemte as they disbelievingly witness a huge explosion that wracks the side of the Starbridge!

And that's where issue 1 ends.

See? Like I said. A large cast, and lots going on- after only one issue! The first thing you'll notice when you crack open this issue is the extraordinary amount of text; in fact, this first issue is one big infodump. Ordinarily offputting, but in this case it's tolerable because most of it is written as dialogue, sharp and naturalistic as opposed to cookie-cutter standard comicbookish. There's an awful lot of worldbuilding that's already gone on before we come along, and Joyner & Wilson have to get us up to speed somehow. Throughout most of the nine issues, we are also given text pieces which provide background, and it's very thoroughly done- I get the strong feeling that Joyner & Wilson could have gone on for three times nine, they had that much cooked up. Back to the dialogue a second- two of the three pages I scanned and posted above I chose as an example of the refreshingly mature dialogue style employed by J&W. These characters didn't talk like imitation Chris Claremont or Marv Wolfman- this is non-mannered and natural, more like film dialogue. And the relationships eschew the typical comics relationships of the time- not a lot of bogus Roy Thomas hand-wringing, but shaded and nuanced.

Artwise, Sprouse and inker Wilson were just getting used to each other, I think. Considering this was the first time Sprouse had done a project of this magnitude, he can be forgiven the occasional stiff pose...and he gets much better as each issue goes on. Wilson is credited as the principal inker, and I've no doubt he did most of it...but several other artists are cited as helping out on finishes, not only backgrounds but elsewhere, in the last issue's letters page- and that's understandable, again given the length of this series. One surprising thing I noticed for the first time while rereading this to prepare to write: Issue #1 is a staggering 38 pages, not counting the text piece that finishes the book! Subsequent issues had a substantially smaller page count, but this was a heck of a way to get started. While there are times that the effect of the fledgling art team is to invoke the work Richard Case was doing over on Doom Patrol, we can easily see the Sprouse style we all have come to love gradually asserting itself, as it will more and more beginning in #2.

OK, that's all for #1. Since this was a nine-issue series, I figured I'd do one issue by itself to even it up so I can do two at a time in future posts. I'll probably try and sum it up after I've done #9, so bear with me on that point...but would I be wrong in saying that right off the bat we have nods to Ayn Rand (in the form of Sir Archer, engineer and self-made man who walks away rather than gives in to compromise) and Robert Heinlein? I think not. Here's the first post in the series; since I posted #1's cover there I decided to scan one of the B&W full-page ads for the book that appeared at the time, and that's what's at the beginning of the overview.

Stay tuned, #'s 2 and 3 coming next.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I've been working on the overview of Hammerlocke #1 & 2 on and off for the last couple of days- a few scans and a lot more is left to do, Since it's too late to get going now (9:23 CST, to be exact), how about that former staple of the JBS, now making a triumphant return:

What I'll be getting via DCBS this weekend:

DORK #11
DMZ #12

Plus, I got comp copies of four Boom! Studios offerings:

I'm really looking forward to several of these, especially Winter Men, Criminal, Dork! and Doctor Strange. I'm digging Neverwhere (a really good adaptation of the Gaiman novel, as I'm sure you all remember from my constant praise for the last year or so), Agents of Atlas and Leading Man as well. Of the Boom!ers, I liked the first Savage Bros. OK, the What Were... titles have been mildly amusing, and the other two, well, the less said the better. X-Isle isn't terrible, but the title formerly known as War of the Worlds: Second Wave has left me ice cold since the start.

Oh well, you may now resume normal activity, whatever that may entail. Thanks for your patience.

The preceding has been crossposted from my LJ. In case you care.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Today would have been the 66th birthday of JOHN LENNON. For last year's list of surprisingly Rock 'n' Roll-heavy favorite Lennon solo songs, go here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hammer Locke, Part One.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWarren Ellis' Ocean was, in my opinion, a bit of a disappointment...but it still was worthwhile to me because of the art by Chris Sprouse, whose assured sense of layout and perspective along with his dynamic figure drawings, even very early in his professional career, added a lot. I've been a fan of his work since I first saw it in the early '90s on the Bierbaum Legionnaires, and the strict Sci-Fi of Ocean takes me back all the way to the dim and distant past of 1992, and one of his very first pro jobs, DC's nine-issue limited series HAMMERLOCKE.

Written and co-created by Tom Joyner, pencilled by Sprouse, and inked by co-creator K.S. Wilson, the first issue of HammerLocke was cover-dated September of 1992, which would suggest that it was actually in comics shops in May or June of that year. DC was not exactly in one of its most high-quality phases- Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns had been in the previous decade, Alan Moore had left Swamp Thing, the Helfer/Baker Shadow was long canceled, the "bwah-ha-ha" Justice League had been popular, but was winding down, and the flagship titles were, by and large, mired in mediocrity. The titles that would soon become the first Vertigo offerings were going strong, such as Hellblazer and Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, and in all fairness 1992 saw the debut of a few series that would go on to be quite interesting eventually: the Ostrander/Mandrake Spectre, Robert L. Fleming's Eclipso, as well as the excellent one-shot Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution by Chaykin, Mignola and Craig Russell; but the Image-esque "grim and gritty" Liefeld-style super-hero comic, especially the team book type, was the order of the day. Here's a timeline of DC offerings from that period. Anyway, someone at DC must have felt the time was right to throw a Sci-Fi title at the wall to see if it would stick, and thusly Hammer Locke was born...but DC hedged its bets and promoted the new title with a campaign that made it seem like yet another cookie-cutter superhero team like L.E.G.I.O.N. or one of the many Justice League spinoffs. "Tomorrow's Superhumans are Here!" cried the full-page ad copy, with a random gathering of the book's principals arranged as if ready for battle against the forces of evil or somesuch, on the rare occasions when it appeared in the inside front covers of DC books of that time. But that was totally misleading in regards to what the book was actually about.

On the surface, it's easy to see how the large cast of Hammer Locke could be misinterpreted as a superhero team- they were a interconnected group of people, and some had meta-human abilities. The titular character was a burly, gruff cybernetically augmented man named Sir Archer Locke, nicknamed "Hammer", hence the title, who was the chief architect of a wondrous mechanism named the "Starbridge", essentially a very massive elevator which enabled man to travel to destinations extraterrestrial in a dramatically shorter time.

And there's where I'll leave it for now. Longtime readers will remember that I've been promising this post (or series of same) for almost two years now, and haven't quite been able to get it off the ground for various reasons...but I love this series and want to spotlight it too much to just let it lay fallow in draft status. So this is my plan: as I did with Beowulf: Dragon Slayer, I'll profile each issue, outlining its events without spoiling too much (I hope), and providing three page scans so (among other things) you can see how good Sprouse's work was. This will take me several weeks, since this is a VERY intricately plotted nine issues, with multiple storylines involving multiple characters, and it's not something I'll be able to breeze through. So stay tuned and be patient...this WILL be happening. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but it will be done. I wouldn't post this if it wasn't!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Good morning! It's a beautiful cool-and-clear October morning here in my old Kentucky home, and I'm up in time to watch The Legion of Super-Heroes.

The plan is to finish the reviews I started the other evening sometime before the day's over, but I wanted to bring your attention to a couple of things I've noticed on the ol' World Wide Intarwub lately, specifically the Comics Blogosphereiverse sector.

First, the redoubtable NeilAlien has written a statement regarding Fraction and Ba's Casanova that sums up my feelings very nicely:

Neilalien's been enjoying trying to take a sip from the $1.99 raging garden hose that is Casanova...

Like the Guinness fellas say, "BRILLIANT!"

Second, something not-so-nice: True Story, Swear to God's Tom Beland, or someone claiming to be Beland, going postal on Greg Burgos in the comments of his column, in which he wrote a non-positive, "non-constructive" review of TS:STG on CBG. I know that criticism stings sometimes, but if this is indeed Beland, it would behoove him to develop some thicker skin or tilt at more fitting windmills, because Burgos didn't cross any lines as far as I can tell when dealing with his work. He didn't like it as much as many have so far, and he said so- and in the process tried to keep the tone light. I've read far, far worse. Hell, I've written far, far worse myself, and Burgos didn't deserve such a temper tantrum- not once, but twice, including "Beland's" responses to the responses to his original tirade. Me, I've liked TS:STG in the past- on paper, Beland's self-effacing and likeable writing style, coupled with his graceful drawing style and ink line, have made the trades a fine read. But this has certainly left a bad taste in my mouth. Heck, "Beland" even pulls out the old "How many comics have you written or drawn" saw when slamming Burgos, which has always struck me as disingeneous at best. I hope that it was someone posting as the writer/artist, but it doesn't seem likely.

OK, now to the TV! Cheers!
Let's surrey down to another BSNCR, what say?

The BSNCR stands for Bacardi Show New Comics Revue, of course and in it I cast a jaundiced eye at works of sequential fiction that have walked under my ladder in the interval between September 27 through October 3, none of which will get me linked to by Deppey, MacDonald, Carlson or Kalinara, but hell, I just keep puttin' 'em out there anyway. If you're not careful, some of these may even still be on sale at your, yes, YOUR LCS!

Newer reviews go on top.

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

Just when we think Seagle is going to get to the point, we get another designed-to-titillate-and-little-more scene in a gay discotheque- which at least has the saving grace of another encounter with last issue's crossdressing media pundit Alex/Alexis, who (next to sister Cyndi, but I may be prejudiced there) is probably the most well-rounded and interesting character to date in this entire up-and-down storyline and who is used by the writer to voice a few germane opinions...but I wish that he'd chosen a less-obvious Bowie joke. Cloonan is as outstanding as always on art; she brings a nice sense of clutter and confusion to the dancefloor scenes, as well as the more quiet intimate scenes between Claudia and Adam early on. I also flat-out love that cover by Josh Middleton; it's beautifully colored and tender without being voyeuristic or crass. B

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger (Marvel, $2.99)

In which Ellis continues to stand up, thump his chest, and say "See, I, TOO have a sense of humor! BWAH HA HA!" and displays dead-on comic timing- I mean, just like Tabby (or should that be "Taby"?) it's tick, tick, BOOM! with precision regularity, and each issue gets funnier, even as it becomes more grotesque. Immonen, for his part, keeps the whole thing grounded by virtue of his just-realistic-enough visuals. Great use of a Ditko swipe on the cover, by the way. And it's nice to see former Starman and Eclipso inker Von Grawbadger slopping black ink all over everything once more...he may have been inking since issue one, but this is the first time I've noticed his name in the credits and I don't have the energy to go dig in my back issues to find out. Hardly essential, but hugely entertaining in its 80's Justice League and 70's Defenders (not to mention 60's Not Brand Echh) way. A-

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

Sadly, this isn't one iota as entertaining as Nextwave, or even Trials of Shazam, because it's treated too seriously to be fun, but it's too silly to take seriously. Maybe they should have just come up with a Detective Chimp series and have been done with it, because he's the only compelling character here. Well, there's also Blue Devil's beard. Perhaps this would all go down easier if an art team with any sort of spark or style had been assigned to it, but all we get from the Scott/Faucher team is the same bland stuff we get in most mainstream DC comics these days. Faugh. C+

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

See, H and Mag? The Matador CAN be cool, at least in the hands of Ed Brubaker. At this stage, I'm willing to bet that he could even do right by the Leap Frog and Stilt-Man, too. I'm also gratfied that we're finally moving away from the rehashed Miller that has been going on in this title since, oh, issue 20 or so, with a new locale and Matt Murdock actually doing his best James Bond impersonation. Lark and Guadiano continue to excel- murky when necessary, but not at the cost of story clarity. I wish the coloring didn't have to be so 90's-Vertigo, but that's a small nit to pick. A

110 PERCENT (Sorry, don't know how to make a cent symbol on a PC)
S/A: Tony Consiglio. (Top Shelf, $12.95)

What at first glance seems like a smug shot at a target that was dead and buried years ago, e.g. boy bands, reveals itself to be a sharply observed little morality play about the dangers of obsessive behavior- specifically that of three middle-aged female fands of the titular boyband- at the risk of family, love and even self-esteem. Especially noteworthy was the husband of the senior-age fan, who begins as a typical grouchy old coot but gratifyingly ends up being one of the warmest and most well-rounded of all. If this evokes Alex Robinson's Tricked, well, it's no surprise, and Consiglio even throws in a clever reference to the main character of that graphic novel's former band. Artwise, Consiglio comes across a little like a blend of Tom Beland and Robinson; not as facile as the former and not as ambitious as the latter, but good enough to not get in the way of the story he's trying to tell. Nice job all around. A-

S/A: Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf, $14)

More short-form wryness from Mr. Brown, who mines the familar ore of his own life experiences, along with a strong predilection for surreal whimsy. The hit-to-miss ratio of this thick collection of one-, two- and three-panel strips is about 65-35, which isn't too bad. For them who likes, and I do like for the most part, here is more. B+

S/A: Lilli Carre (Top Shelf, $7)

Here's some deadpan strangeness from a creator with whom I'm not particularly familiar but seems to be all about defying expectations- I went in expecting skewed-but-humorous exploits of the title character, but soon found out that Carre isn't particularly interested in tweaking anybody's funnybone or anything else for that matter- she just puts her characters out there in their (sometimes clever) situations (loved that whole idea of mounds of salt in which people buried their belongings), drawn in her rather pinched and fussy style, and steadfastly refuses to adopt any tone except perhaps that of a sort of wry detachment. And while that's perfectly valid for a creator, it doesn't especially make his or her output clever of even interesting by default. For what it's worth, I loved the cover design, and wound up being far more engaged by the Paul Bunyan stuff than I ever was reading about ol' obstinate Pete. Appropriately enough, I suppose you could say I admired this from a distance. B+

S/A: Tony Millionaire (Dark Horse, $2.99)

At least when Millionaire makes with the whimsy, you get a clearer idea about where he's coming from, even though all this first issue is about is stage-setting, in which we meet the principals and find out the situation they'll be dealing with for the immediate future. As with Dame Darcy, I just plain old like Millionaire's vibe, no matter what he gives us, and while it's never as laugh-out-loud funny as Maakies can be, it's still well worth my time. A-

S/A: Matt Wagner (DC, $3.50)

Wagner, you're giving us some pretty good lowdown sanguinary goings-on in Gotham...but there's just something about the fugly ink line you're using and the awkward anatomy that it's delineating that keeps taking me out of the story a lot more than I like to be taken, for sure. It's a problem, but fortunately it's not that much of a problem. And you can still design and illustrate a cover like nobody's business, giving us the most striking one yet. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A: Billy Tucci, Francis Tortella, Tom Palmer (Marvel, $2.99)

A huge disappointment, following a not-terrible debut (itself a step or two down from the Daughters of the Dragon miniseries, trade collection now available). Graymiotti suddenly seem to have forgotten how to write fun, sassy dialogue, now filling their characters' word balloons with tons of expository dialogue and flat-on-their-face wisecracks, and the only real novelty, besides an inevitable betrayal which nobody should have been surprised by, comes from the previously unseen-by-me Misty Knight-Tony Stark relationship and its verbal sparring- which is perhaps something that was made more explicit in Civil War...but I don't care to start buying to find out. And the art- oh boy. I don't know how much of this was done by Tucci and how much by the other guy, but it's full of hackneyed cheesecake posing and some of the most awkward, static fight scenes I've seen in recent memory, combined with some unintentionally hilarious foot drawings. Captain America delivers a kick in one panel which makes it seem like he has no bones in his ankle. Gonna have to do better than this, fellas. C-

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

Not content with ostensibly wrapping up her previous muddled and dull multi-issue epic, Mina continues from that with another multi-issue epic continuation, and damned if I can tell why or where one ends and the other begins, or if I should expect this to improve or even elaborate on it. Neither is she doing a very good job of letting us know what's at stake, and why John should give a rat's ass except to get the empathy hoodoo out of his system. Manco's not helping- his work is as sloppy and muddled as always. I have never been so close to dropping this title as I am now. C+

S: Howard Chaykin, David Tischman; A: David Hahn (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Dave Hahn deserves a better showcase for his talents than this incoherent, unlikeable mess. Assuming Chaykin had very much to do with this at all, it signals his continued depressing decline into late middle-aged obsolescence, and Tischman writes like he's just happy to be picking up a paycheck. The first series was kinda fun, but this one is anything but. D

S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary (Marvel, $3.99)

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink penultimate (hey- there's an idea for a team name, "The Penultimates"!) issue (and the kitchen sink will probably arrive for issue 13) as the forces of the Marvel guys we're supposed to like finally turn the tables on the Marvel guys we're not supposed to like, just like we knew they would, and the Hitch/Neary team use up a small refinery's worth of ink as they lovingly render each speck of sweat, blood, and shrapnel in smashing widescreen. Best of show: the Hulk, whose jeering beatdown of the super-intelligent (just ask him!) Abomination is as amusing as it is cringe-inducing. Worst: Yet another slam at poor old maligned Hank Pym, who gets to show the cowardly side that is of course, no surprise. Which is kind of the problem with this whole damn thing: no surprises. But even a routine script can be enlivened by outstanding art, and again it's no surprise that Hitch and Neary are more than equal to the task. A-

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

A bit of a rebound from last issue as Jack begins to figure out his escape plan, some of the trademark Fables characterization feel comes through a bit more as we continue to see who else is stuck in this low-budget version of The Village with him, and we get diverted by a little mystery between the lines- namely who's the snitch who is keeping Mr. Revise apprised of his plans? The art is still really lackluster, though- anatomy just isn't Akins' strong suit, and Pepoy isn't up to the task of keeping him honest. B-

100 BULLETS 76
S: Brain Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 24 issues. A-

BEST IN SHOW: THE SURROGATES Trade. Daredevil, 110 Percent, runners up.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit, which really did bite.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'm right in the middle of writing reviews, so never fear, they'll be along shortly. But in the meantime, let me share my latest art discovery: the amazing Boris Artzybasheff. If I'd heard of him before, I don't remember when...but last night, when I sat down and wrote a response to a meme tag about books, I followed a link from the Wikipedia entry for the book Circus of Dr. Lao to his entry, which led to other links, which led to...well, you'll see later. But man! He had an incredibly diverse career, which went from Hannes Bok-style fantasy illustration to Basil Wolvertonesque cartooning to Daliesque illustration to...again, just check the links. His biggest claim to fame was probably the host of Time magazine covers he did in the 50s and 60s, and apparently he also did illos, like the one at left, for an early edition of Dr. Lao, which didn't get reprinted in subsequent printings. Whatta shame. Anyway, here are some of the links to his work that I found:

Bio and samples at Bud Plant's site.

The American Art Archives.

A page at the Eisner Museum site.

His Time Magazine covers, one of which was published the week I was born;


a typically excellent blog post by the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Project.

Enjoy, and I'll be getting those reviews up soon. I hope. I'll even squeeze in a Laura Nyro reference.