Monday, December 31, 2007

From all of me to all of you, happy 2008. And be safe tonight.

New Year's resolution: blog more here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best Comics of 2007.

2008 is almost here, so I figure it's time to make with the


Now, let me preface this as I always do...This is by no means a list which claims to be the absolute best of the past year, will brook no dissension, et cetera. There are many, many fine, outstanding, revelatory comics and graphic novels that I've read volumes about on other comics blogs- you know, the ones that get linked to by Dirk Deppey- that I simply have not read due to not being on a particular comp list and/or lack of funds and/or not knowing anybody that has a copy I could borrow. So this is a highly personal, idiosyncratic list which is by no means complete, but is the best I can do under the circumstances. I shall continue what has become my annual tradition, namely citing 10 best plus 2. Just because. Rather than divide my nominations into graphic novels, limited series, ongoings, etc., creating sets and subsets and making this more of a chore than it needs to be, I'll just lump 'em all together and let God sort 'em out, m'kay?

Maestro, if you please:

ABRAXAS AND THE EARTHMAN (Rick Veitch, King Hell): As imaginative and clever in 2007 as it was in 1981.

BLACK METAL V1 (Rick Spears, Chuck B.B.; Oni Press): Left-field surprise which I found completely enjoyable.

COURTNEY CRUMRIN AND THE FIRE THIEF's TALE (Ted Naifeh, Oni Press): It's been too long since Naifeh revisited Courtney, fortunately it didn't disappoint.

CRIMINAL (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips; Marvel/Icon): Brubaker and Phillips continue to make excellence look easy.

FABLES (Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steven Leialoha, various; DC/Vertigo): Fables has had an exceptionally solid year, with the current ongoing storyline ranking among the best in the series yet. How many series, 70-plus issues in, can make that claim?

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST (Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, David Aja, various; Marvel): Good old-fashioned pulpy fun and martial arts action, with a high-quality blend of backup artists.

JLA/HITMAN (Garth Ennis, John McCrea; DC): Like I said the other day- this was the best series DC put out in, well, let's just say a long time. I liked Ennis' Superman more here than in the entire Morrison run of All-Star Superman, and as much as Supes' previous appearance in the Hitman world, unsurprisingly. Isn't it funny (strange, and ha-ha) how hardassed cynic Ennis can write one of the most upfront and heroic characters in modern fiction so well? A textbook display of how to have superhero characters interact and relate to each other, as well as a bittersweet valentine to those of us who loved Tommy Monaghan back in the day. I hope they collect this in one volume soon, I just might buy it again.

KANE VOL. 6: PARTNERS (Paul Grist, Image): While I'm sure many of you have already read the stories re-presented here, I hadn't, and to me this represents Paul Grist at the top of his game, which is saying something to me.

THE LAST SANE COWBOY AND OTHER STORIES (Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, AiT/PlanetLar): Absolutely inspired surrealist lunacy, the likes of which you just don't see all that often.

NAT TURNER: REVOLUTION BOOK 2 (Kyle Baker): Unforgettable conclusion to this historical saga, with some of Baker's best, and most committed, art in at least a decade.

SCOTT PILGRIM VOL. 4: SCOTT PILGRIM GETS IT TOGETHER (Bryan Lee O'Malley; Oni): Still clever, fresh and fun.

SHAZAM VS. THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL (Jeff Smith, DC): It takes a certain kind of writer and artist to capture the openhearted, benign vibe of the best Captain Marvel comics of the 40's, and DC was fortunate to find both in one person in Smith. Faltered a bit when Smith tried to shoehorn in commentary on current politics, but it never broke stride.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Catwoman, Dr. Strange: The Oath, Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Morality, NextWave: Agents of H.A.T.E., Delphine #2, Meat Cake, All-Star Superman, Hawaiian Dick #1, Love and Rockets Vol.2, Powers, Jack Staff, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Superf*ckers, Hellboy: Darkness Calls, Batman #'s 667-669, Omega the Unknown #'s 1-3, The Brave and the Bold, Re-Gifters, 100 Bullets, Daredevil, Casanova, the short backing features by Colleen Coover and Jeff Parker in X-Men: First Class.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Found via Scott Cederlund's Secret of the Wednesday's Haul blog: the art blog of one Francesco Francavilla, named Pulp Sunday.

He specializes in illustrating adventures of pulp heroes such as the Shadow, as you'll see if you click on the link. Scott compares his work to such luminaries as Alfredo Alcala and Steve Bissette, valid enough, especially in the blackspotting area...but I don't think his inkline is as blocky as Alcala's was, or as loose as Bissette's pencil work. To me, it looks a lot like the inkwash efforts Gene Colan turned in for Warren in the 60's- those things were beautiful- and I'm also reminded a lot of David Mazzuchelli's 80's work via Batman: Year 1. I'm also reminded a little of former DC Shadow artist Eduardo Barretto, except Francavilla's art is much more dynamic and less fussy.

I like it a lot, and boy would I like to read more Shadow comics by this guy. And I hope someday he gets interested in the Avenger as well...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Well, here we go again. This is going to be my big 2007 catch-up review post, in which I write a line or two about the comics I've read since the last time I reviewed comics sometime back in October. Some of these, I'll have more to say than others; if you want in-depth insight go read Jog. Does this mean I'll be doing this on a regular basis again? Probably maybe definitely. Either way, remember, I never said I was going away forever- I just wanted to take a break, and I have. Also coming before the end of the year, a best of 2007 list- nobody does THOSE, now do they? Anyway, without any further ado...

100 BULLETS #86: The Standard Review: 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 14 issues. A-

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #9 Generally, the quality level of A-SS has been high, but occasionally Grant and Frank have dropped a stinker on us, and none so pungent as this puzzling episode, which seems to be missing pages in the middle- otherwise how to explain the abrupt and offputting shift in the central concept and the hasty resolution? And while I think Quitely is one of the best there is these days, and laud his intent to draw realistic superhero costumes, is it necessary to draw Supes' costume so baggy and ill-fitting? Better than just looking like lines drawn on paper, but he looks so sad-sack that the effect is amusing rather than inspiring, and I still think Supes oughtta be a little inspiring, call me old-fashioned. Frank, get thee to a Gray Morrow art book forthwith. He's someone who knew how to draw realistic superpeople. C+

AMERICAN VIRGIN #20, 21: Figures- just as this gets interesting, it gets canceled. Despite still dancing all around a real defining point for the series as a whole, it's been rewarding on a "what happens to whom and why" basis for those of us who have been along since the beginning, and I would imagine puzzling to those who haven't. One thing remains constantly good, and that's Becky Cloonan's art, nicely inked for the last few issues by Jim Rugg. B+

THE ATHEIST #4 Remember this? Don't blame you if you don't- it's only been about a year and eight months since #3 came out. Guess artist John McCrea (no doubt burdened with higher profile and better paying gigs) was the reason for the delay because this concluding issue has a different (not bad, better than McCrea in places) illustrator on board, and against all odds is gripping and solid. Writer Phil Hester is to be commended for remaining true to his character- we knew had the potential to be as matter of fact hardcore as this issue's resolution necessitates, and he does not disappoint, making him all the more interesting because of it. I, for one, hope to see further stories...but I won't hold my breath. A-

BAT LASH #1: OK, so original co-plotter Sergio Aragones is supposed to be somewhere on board. Perhaps he made a suggestion or two in regards to plot, but if his genial touch is evident anywhere else in this umpteenth wrongheaded attempt to show modern audiences that this Bat Lash character a small group of people loved back in the 60's (myself included) is pretty cool and worthy of wider-spread attention, I don't see it. This is bland, by-the-numbers cowboy stuff, and this Brandvold guy, supposedly some sort of hot-shit western novel writer, brings absolutely none of the wit and panache that Dennis O'Neil did to the character- and it sports some of the most godawful attempts to write Old West slang I've ever read. I mean "Sure as tequila on a bean-eater's breath" and "They ain't gonna know whether to build him a wooden overcoat or toss him into a stew pot" - is he kidding me? And of course, how could we do without that new DC tradition, a potential rape cliffhanger? We've all come so far, haven't we? On art, God bless John Severin- he still has the mojo after all these years, and this looks fine, but his stiff, dry style isn't exactly conducive to bringing out the best in the lackluster script. One reason why Bat was so good in those meager nine issues was the lively, playful art of Nick Cardy, at that's almost a 180 degree shift from Severin. This is not a promising start. In fact, it's quite depressing, something a Bat Lash comic shouldn't be. C-

BIFF BAM POW #1: I wanted to like this a lot more than I did- Evan Dorkin has really become a reliably good storyteller, and the lead character and her world was fun, but there's just something unexciting about the concept itself, or unexciting to me anyway. A misfire, but a mildly entertaining one, and I will always take a chance on a Dorkin (especially in tandem with Sara) project, because odds are that I won't be disappointed. B

B.P.R.D.: KILLING GROUND #3, 4, 5: Speaking of reliable franchises, the whole B.P.R.D. arm of the Hellboy saga rolls right on with this particularly frenzied and bloody chapter, which ended somewhat ambiguously but not disappointingly so. I'm sure they'll get back to it. Oh, and Guy Davis is still a genius, did you know? A-

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7, 8: The Supergirl/Power Girl teamup was tasty, like cotton candy, and just about as substantial. The Flash/Metamorpho/Doom Patrol teamup was dragged down by the curious decision to rewrite the DP as the Addams Family, but it moved along at a decent clip, so it was fine. Waid writes his ass off, Perez provides his usual claustrophobic, but well-crafted, art job. This comic manages to curious trick of being absolutely inessential, but yet somehow infinitely more enjoyable than the rank and file DC book these days. Just how long they get to walk that tightrope is anybody's guess. B+

CASANOVA #10, 11: Remains clever and inchoate in damn near equal measures. The enthusiasm of the creators is infectious, but too often this just noodles along like a mid-70's Steve Howe eight minute guitar solo, something that I doubt, very strongly, is what Fraction has in mind. B+

CATWOMAN #72, 73: It speaks to DC's collective creative bankruptcy, not to mention the myopia of the Great Unwashed of Fandom, that this title remains (disheartening, but logical, character developments aside) one of DC's very best, but most anonymous and disappointing sales-wise, superhero titles. How much longer can this go on? A-

COURTNEY CRUMRIN AND THE FIRE THIEF'S TALE: It's been too long since we've had a new Courtney story, and it picks up right where the last one left off, with Miss Crumrin and her Uncle Aloysius traveling together. In this story, they end up getting involved with Romanian gypsies and werewolves, and a somewhat novel and definitely dramatic lover's triangle. Great little character moments abound, and the easy resolution option is not taken, which makes this another outstanding chapter in this series. I've been enjoying other Naifeh's other projects such as Death, Jr., written by Gary Whitta, and his own Barrie-oque fantasy Polly and the Pirates, but it's on Courtney that his talents shine most brightly. One odd thing about Naifeh's otherwise evocative and nicely inked art: are you familiar with the method by which many cartoonists check their art- by holding it up to the light backwards, enabling the artist to see anatomy and perspective mistakes better? When one does this, even though these things may be correct, the figures themselves look oddly slanted when reversed. Naifeh's work often looks like that to me, even when viewed from the front. Pardon my digression. A

CRIMINAL #10: Criminal remains a solid, mature, thoughtful work by two creators at the top of their game, and the latest arc was no exception as this issue's resolution was as satisfying as it was resonant, in keeping with the characters and their backgrounds. Sometimes I wish it was a little less staid and resolutely ordinary (sometimes excellence in craftsmanship only goes so far), something I could say about the whole Noir genre, in prose, film or comics...but that's just the contrarian in me. A

DAREDEVIL #101, 102, DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1: The misery parade continues for ol' Hornhead, and although the dramatics are well done it's becoming a drag to read. As a kid whose early collection included V1 #6, as well as the Marvel Tales reprint of this, I like what Ed's doing with Mr. Fear, and I was happy to see the Enforcers return too. As it has for most of Brubaker and Lark/Gaudiano's tenure, this remains a solid A-. But the hobgoblins of consistency are beginning to make themselves known.

DMZ #24, 25: The last couple of issues have seen Brian Wood spending (marking?) time with single-story examinations of some of the peripheral players in the saga as a whole. Regular artist Burchielli is on board for #24's look at terrorist pawn Amina, and his style gets looser and looser. Some good dramatics get it over. #25 features Danijel Zezelj, last seen on the AWOL Desolation Jones, and his stark, sketchy, expressionistic style makes its tale of the Godfatheresque "Ghost Protector of Chinatown", merely named "Wilson" very compelling. 25 issues in, the time seems to be right for this sort of horizon-broadening, but it also unfortunately causes my admittedly tentative interest to wander a bit. Those who may be harder of core about this series won't understand what I'm talking about. B+

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #3: OK as far as it goes, but despite an occasional clever quip this reads like Ellis on autopilot. I don't care for the art at all- it's too stiff and clumsy. Unfortunately, finding a distinctive and sympathetic collaborator isn't high on Ellis' priority list; when paired with a Williams or Cassaday, he's often magic. When paired with lesser talents, he becomes quite ordinary, no matter how many "mad ideas" he borrows from Metafilter or Boing Boing. C+

FABLES #66, 67, 68: Fables continues to be one of the more enjoyable reads out there, and now that I've gotten used to the art, which is impeccably designed but bland in style, it has become one of the few books I look forward to reading. The latest storyline, in which former Mundy world janitor "Flycatcher" (the Frog Prince, get it) goes into the enemy kingdom via the Land of the Dead and becomes a major irritant to the enemy has been one of the best arcs yet. A-

FAKER #4, 5: As I said last time, this would have been better served as part of an SF anthology title- as is, Carey and (most dismayingly) Jock seem to be sleepwalking and the concept is derivative and blah. Barring a bravura finish, this has been a disappointment. C+

GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #6: I suspect this meant more to old diehard Losers fans than the aficionados of 52 and the like. Despite borrowing a little too much from James Bond movies, this wasn't bad overall and had me liking a character I've been mostly indifferent to for 40 plus years. B+

GLISTER #2: This one's a little more imaginative than issue #1 and a tad less fey and cutesy, but it's still awfully precious and Watson's newish scratchy-line art style just doesn't satisfy my eye like it oughtta. If you like cutesy-poo stories about precocious kids, illustrated in faux-1950's children's book fashion but by someone who apparently needs to clean out his nibs and brushes, then by all means have at it. B-

HATE ANNUAL #7: Bagge's decision to have Buddy Bradley dress up like some demented 1960's Saturday morning local TV kiddie show host remains a puzzler and smacks of goofy-for-goofy's sake and therefore grates, but the lead story is the best Buddy tale I've read in a long time. Bat Boy loses something, to me anyway, when I don't read it while waiting in line at the grocery store, and the other reruns of his work in other venues doesn't leave much of an impression. 1994 seems like a million years ago, doesn't it? B-

HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER #1: New artist Scott (Northwest Passage) Chantler comes on board in the latest iteration of what has to be the absolute best private eye-set-in-Hawaii series in the history of comics, and he acquits himself very well in the first chapter, which involves the clever idea (not necessarily original, mind you, but in this setting...) of ghosts of WWII Japanese aviators that are apparently haunting a group of aerial daredevils that Byrd has befriended. Original artist Steven Griffin contributes art to a nifty backup story featuring Girl Friday Kahami. So far so good. A-

HIGHWAYMEN #5: The poster child for the fucked-up comics climate these days ended on a fairly high note, and was resolved in fine fashion. Don't know what could have made this more noteworthy; a different artist, with a more dynamic, less derivative style might have helped, at least on the covers anyway...oh well. I'd like to see more, but I won't stand on one leg waiting. B

HELLBLAZER #237, 238: Diggle made a misstep in #237, giving us something which never fails to irritate your humble scribe: The resolution that isn't, not yet. Still, I like the villains the Diggle's cooked up to plague our John, and he still is doing a wonderful job of keeping him in character. But none of this is especially gripping reading, and I can't exactly say why. Guess it's just me. B+

HELLBOY: DARKNESS CALLS #6: Storywise, this is pretty standard Mignola Hellboy stuff, full of gnomes and witches and fairies and big pighead monsters, all standing around calmly and making terse pronouncements. In fact, my biggest quibble with this otherwise outstanding miniseries is that there was a definite air of seen-this-hit-that throughout. Saving grace: getting Duncan Fregredo to do the art chores- he remained true to the whole established Hellboy ethos throughout, while deftly working in his usual dynamic perspective and anatomy. In the hands of lesser talents, this could have been a disaster. A-

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #3: You know, this is a stylish and damn smart little series- Casey's script doesn't betray how padded it is, thanks to some nifty character work that makes someone who remembers back in the day, before Civil Wars and Bob Layton and even George Tuska, happy. Star of the show here, though, is the dynamic Eric Canete art; it's no looser than it needs to be and really makes the script sing. A-

JLA/HITMAN #2: This and #1 are the best frigging superhero books released by DC in 2007. Or 2006 and 2005, for that matter. From Garth Ennis, oh the irony. What next? A+

JONAH HEX #24, 25: #24 is a freewheeling and lively, but awkwardly constructed and ultimately unsatisfying, Halloween tale that features Bat Lash and El Diablo running afoul of a witch who manages to channel the demonic side of the latter. The art, by one David Michael Beck, is stiff and awkward with an ugly grainy look. #25 unintentionally reminded me of the old song "A Boy Named Sue" as a senior-aged Jonah encounters his estranged son. It's nicely drawn by reliable old pro Russ Heath, whose work always makes me sit up and notice. Heath has lost a little of his dexterity, it seems, but none of his skill. #24: B-; #25: B+

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #10: This remains fun in the way that Daredevil apparently can't be, and coherent in the way Casanova apparently doesn't want to be, and must be considered one of the best-ever Pulp/Comics blends ever. Even the rotating backup artists enhance rather than frustrate, and that's a rarity indeed. A.

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE BLACK DOSSIER: It's as if Moore thought to himself, "Self, if they thought creating an entire comics line out of scratch and writing each and every title was a titanic act of hubris, then following it up with the metaphysicalities of the final issues of Promethea was more of the same, just wait until I show them how well versed I am in the classics, and how I can bend and twist them to my every whim! Bwah ha ha!" Which is, of course, kinda overstating it a bit but really, this is not just gilding the lily, but it's encrusting the fucker with diamonds and rubies and placing it on display at the Louvre. Loved the first two Gentlemen series, really I did, it reinforced that which did not really need reinforcing: Messire Alan Moore is a clever fella and an imaginative writer. The scene in the final issue, in which the previously reprehensible Mr. Hyde resignedly, yet aggressively, goes primeval on Martian asses, is one of the most appropriate finales I've ever read in a comic book. But Moore isn't really trying to tell much of a story here, and on that score he succeeds- the underlying storyline in this is pretty good for the most part, with smirking takes on James Bond and some clever cameos- I was especially gratified, Avengers (and no, I don't mean Marvel Comics) fan that I am, to see Emma Peel worked into the mix. But the problem is yet another non-resolution resolution; Moore is content to have his protagonists escape into some sort of convoluted Never-Never Land, presumably to be seen again at some point in the future but a little annoying when considering how much the faithful punters have gone through to experience the latest from the Guru himself. Not quite good-faith bargaining. Of course, admirers will counter with the argument that all the peripheral stuff, all the homages and pastiches of Tijuana Bibles, the overlong and overwrought saga of Orlando, and (the especially ghastly) Kerouac/Ginsburg section and such is of such high quality and therefore an enhancement of the complete package...and while I agree to a point, like I said, much of the text pieces are a real slog to get through (I don't think I'll ever be able to read the aforementioned Ginsburg "homage" in this lifetime), and the Kevin O'Neill art is only effective on this stuff up to a point. And at this point I'll give it up to Mr. O'Neill; frankly, I don't find his art style pleasing, never have, but I completely admire his dedication and craft and storytelling chops. So, to sum, as always I'm as put off by yet admiring of, in equal measures, Moore's apparent need to remind us these days how well-read and esoteric he is and salute Mr. O'Neill for making it all work as well it does. I don't think this is a success by any means, but neither do I wish I had my money back, and I guess that makes this a qualified success. But it won't make my best of 2007 list. B

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #2, 3, 4: I love Hellboy and the assorted spinoffs, but Lobster Johnson, that Pulp magazine pastiche, has never seemed all that clever or even necessary- it's as if Mike wanted to do a Pulp hero a la the Shadow, Doc Savage, or the Avenger so bad that he couldn't help himself- he just had to drop Johnson in the middle of his most popular book, no matter how incongruous he was. And this miniseries has defied my every attempt to warm up to it- it's decently illustrated by Jason Armstrong, channeling Guy Davis for all he's worth- but the story is just to cluttered and haphazardly constructed, and just plain old doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe it will all be tied up in #5 to my satisfaction, who knows. Not holding my breath. C+

MEAT CAKE #16: That Dame Darcy, she's a national treasure, the horny Grandma Moses of her g-g-generation. A-

METAL MEN #3, 4: This looks bright and shiny in its mangaesque pretensions, but it is simply too muddled and overscripted for me to stay interested, so I intend to drop it after #5, my next pre-ordered issue. I like that new Copper robot, though. C+

MIDDLEMAN VOL 3: THE THIRD VOLUME INESCAPABILITY: Threatens to drown in a deluge of jokey, hamfisted pop-culture references, but the characterization and a couple of nifty twists save the day. And of course, artist Les McLaine makes it all look great with his deft style. This still has a ways to go before wearing out its welcome, but I sure didn't enjoy this one as much as I did the previous two miniseries. B+

NORTHLANDERS #1: Even though the dialogue is nowhere near as hightoned, and there are echoes of Hamlet and dare I say The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent contained therein, this postmodern Viking saga seems to be trying to do for the Norsemen what Deadwood did for cowboys (and thugs, whores and politicians), which is to say elevate the genre (if that's what it is) above the cliche and make something out of it that today's twentysomethings can read and not smirk as they do so. It certainly helps that (yet another- what, do they genetically breed new artists these days?) newcomer Davide Gianfelice is able to illustrate the mud, the blood and the mead with style, even though I wish it was a bit less fussy and a little more propulsive. Of course, it's way too early to make a definitive judgment about how good this may or may not be- much will hinge, I do believe, on how much charisma and reader identification Wood can wring out of his lead- and right now, he comes across as hard to like, not the first impression I'd think he wants. Anyway, we shall see what we will see. A-

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #3: I don't know if anybody's paying attention, but this has become, against all odds, a very interesting read. Having not read the original (as I said when reviewing this months ago), I'm not sure how much this is deviating from the Gerber version by now, but I like the dry tone and real-scanning dialogue, aided by Faryl Dalrymple's deadpan anti-Kirby Marvel House Style art. It's not very often that a revisiting of an older comic series surpasses the original, but we just might have a winner here. Stay tuned. A-

POWERS #26, 27: The book that Bendis seems to care about suffers a little from his deliberate approach, but when things do happen, they have weight and resonance and goose the story further on. After all this time, I still care about Deena and Christian and what's going to happen to them, and therefore I keep reading. The art definitely helps- Oeming's streamlined style sometimes gets away from him and chaos ensues, but in terms of mood and expression, he is first rate. A-

THE RIDE: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL; Murky and unpleasant ripoff of both Tarantino and John Carpenter (or Tobe Hooper, even). The Ride series so far has been a guilty pleasure, but this just made me feel guilty for spending good money on it. C

SCOTT PILGRIM VOL 4: SCOTT PILGRIM GETS IT TOGETHER: By now, I'd imagine most people have made up their mind about the Scott Pilgrim series- I'm far from the target demographic, I would think, but I've always had a soft spot for imaginative, fun comics that have that certain je'nais se quis and as far as I'm concerned Scott certainly fills that bill. O'Malley's unusual art style is very expressive and easy on the eyes, and I believe he's really improving as a storyteller as well, really coming into his own. I wish that Scott's circle of friends could convince me of why they continue to hang out together, and I wish Scott wasn't such a clueless dumbass as much as he seems to be, but those are minor quibbles and Scott Pilgrim remains a must-read as far as I'm concerned. A

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #3, 4: This should have been good, in a trash-cinema kinda way, but it was just dull, silly, and felt padded-out. The Daughters of the Dragon team of Graymiotti and Khari Evans (some really dodgy anatomy this time, Khari, especially on Shanna) proved once more that lightning rarely strikes twice. C-

UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS #2, 3: There's just no charm or excitement here, like most of DC's offerings these days, but it's hard to say what the problem is exactly. It uses Grant's 7 Soldiers: Spawn of Frankenstein concept as its springboard, just like the previous series, and that's far from the worst idea they could use; but with the exception of Uncle Sam, nobody is half as interesting as they were before. Perhaps it's just as simple as the artist change; Renato Arlem's sloppy cut-and-pasting isn't as easy on the eye as Daniel Acuna's airbrushed sheen. The first series (which I liked, overall) rambled, climaxed too many times, and really could have stood to have been six issues instead of eight, but this one just seems too deliberately paced and unfocused somehow, as if they're literally making it up as they go along...and my patience wears thin quickly these days so I think I will just stop here before anymore time and money are spent. C

WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #11: The grande finale of issue #9, which read a little better- nothing about this issue (why was the totally irrelevant #10 sandwiched in between? Deadline issues?) works very well at all. The straight-up horror elements clash incongruously with the cotton-candy Timm-inspired cartoonishness of Cooke's style, the out-of-nowhere Ellen Dolan ex-boyfriend plot resolver seems random and arbitrary, as well as a sop thrown to gay readers; and why exactly did Ebony drive his cab off the bridge? Eisner and his collaborators, while never averse to the occasional fantastical tale, never bothered with grim goings-on like this, and once more he's proven correct in his (and their) convictions. Of course, it's all gorgeously illustrated, and often that's enough for me, but not even the art can make this palatable. C+

WORLD OF WARCRAFT #1: I'm probably the least qualified person to judge how successful this is at what it's intended to do- in essence, pique the potential reading interest of the legion of World of Warcraft gamers. All I know about WoW is that my son spends a lot of time playing it, and if he lived at home I would have solicited his opinion. There's first-class talent involved; Walt Simonson is the writer, and while he's never been the writer that he is the illustrator he has a no-frills, solid style. Sandra Hope is an experienced inker, whose specialty is inking the pseudomanga stylings of the likes of Humberto Ramos, and new-to-me penciller Ludo Lullabi (say what now?) is right in that stylistic ballpark. Despite the talent involved, it struck me, after I read it, as generic Tolkienesque swords vs. big ugly Orcish creatures and unknown/undetermined sorcery type stuff, the likes of which we've all read before and got tired of at about the same time we bacame of legal drinking age. But this may be an advantage to the gamer who picks this up out of curiosity and is gratified to see that it remains faithful to the subject matter. So all I can do is shrug my shoulders and tell you I've seen worse, and I've seen better, and make up your own mind- it won't burn you if you attempt to pick it up and read it. C+

OK, that is all for now. Thanks for your patience, and comments are always welcome. Tell your friends! "Oh crap, he's doing it again..."

Coming in the next couple of days, my TOP 12 of 2007, and I'll include LUCHA LIBRE 2 and SUPER SPY in my next Spinner Rack Junkie, up in the next two weeks!

Monday, December 24, 2007

From all of me to all of you:

Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
Happy Hanukkah!
Feliz Navidad!
Merii Kurisumasu!
Joyeux Noel!
Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Mele Kalikimaka!

Happy Krimble!

Even though it's not particularly festive, especially with the Hate-Monger's ugly mug featured so prominently, I've always liked that clever S.H.I.E.L.D. cover from the post-Steranko Frank Springer run. Besides, what with all the people posting Christmas-themed comics covers these days, I figure they've all been used anyway.

I still have about 8 reviews to add to the Monster Spinner Rack Junkie post, and will be doing so soon. So if you see it back at the top of the page, skim down, they'll be in there, just like the dozen or so new ones I've put in there over the past week!


Peace on Earth to all y'all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Today is the 27th anniversary of the senseless and maddening murder of John Lennon.

Yasurakani nemure, John.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Imonna getsum comeeks today.

Assuming DHL does their part, here's my bi-weekly haul:


And that's it! Really, the only one I'm looking forward to much at all is the new Hawaiian Dick miniseries- Clay Moore and Scott (Northwest Passage) Chantler, two great tastes that should taste great together. Or something like that.

Anyways, I'd say I'm going to review them here, but I probably won't. I am considering doing a big monster head-crushing year-end review spectacular edition of Confessions of a Spinner Rack Junkie, in which I just lump a whole buncha books together with a general statement about if I liked 'em or not, then a day or so later put up a best of 2007. Then maybe get back into the review saddle in full force in 2008. Maybe.

I should post that Nilsson song, "Maybe" here.

Anyway, that's my haul. Actually, I haven't completely finished my shipment of two weeks ago, especially if you consider the overwrought League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier with its endless text pieces and diversions. For what it's worth, I have read the main story and certain passages of the rest. I don't think I'll ever read it cover to cover; that imitation Kerouac/Ginsburg section is frightening. If I was going to review it anytime soon, I'd say that Moore has finally completed the journey straight up his own ass that he began when he took the wheel of Promethea, made a hard left, and drove it straight through the Obfuscated Metaphysical Desert. But I'm not.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My favorite in the big Wonder Woman redesign contest that the Project: Rooftop guys held recently, by Jemma Salume. It just looks more practical for fighting evil and stuff. It's not necessarily my favorite illustration; that would be this one:

By Ming Doyle, whose work I've been following via her blog for a little while now. She's güd, as We3 wüd say.

The winning submission is a lively design, but the big shoulder pad looking thingies seem like they'd be hell of uncomfortable and annoying.

If you haven't seen it and the others already, go here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From the LP Cover Lover blog- a Miles Davis album cover with art by the great Don Martin! There's another right here!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hey! This blogging stuff is contagious!

Anyway, I wanted to share this image, which was set to be the cover to Dark Horse's Starstruck: The Expanded Universe #5- which of course never saw print. It is of course by Mike Kaluta, who graciously sent it to me when I couldn't see it at the Kaluta Yahoo! Group, which you should all belong to.

He also stated in a post to the community (which he often does) that he and Elaine Lee are still interested in bringing Starstruck to a satisfactory conclusion someday, but haven't been able to find a publisher that would agree to publish/republish it the way they want it (i.e., in color).

Looking at DC's solicitations for March, I noticed, much to my surprise, that SHOWCASE PRESENTS: PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 2 was among the solicited. Having enjoyed the first one, especially the stories early in the run that I hadn't owned and read, I am happy to see it.

This one will start off with a bang- issues 22-24, by Len Wein (still PS' best writer) and Jim Aparo, are the concluding chapters of their Dark Circle saga, and are probably the Stranger's finest published hour. #25 is by Wein and Aparo too, but is just a mystery story that smacks of inventory, and marks their final issue. #26, which you might recall from my Spawn of Frankenstein post series, (Imageshack seems to have lost a couple of the scans, which annoys me no end) was the big grande finale for that era. After that, a whole new writer and artist came on board- the late Arnold Drake and unknown Filipino Gerry Talaoc, and that ushered in a long period in which for all practical purposes the Stranger became another Cain & Abel-style horror host, introducing, and even once in a while participating in a passive fashion in, stories which pretty much seemed to be recycled House of Mystery/Secrets fare. It was during this period that I first discovered the character and the book, at a drugstore in nearby Cave City. I still vaguely recall the day- I was scanning the racks, looking for something different, and noticed the cover to #31; why this caught my eye I can't say, especially when I had failed to notice other issues of the Stranger in the past. Regardless, I bought it, read it, and liked it enough to get #32 (the contents of which I don't remember to this day) and more importantly I got interested in the pre-#31 run, which was not easy to find in those pre-comics shop and internet days, believe you me. By #33, fan reaction to the new Rod Serling Stranger was pretty much uniformly hostile- if the letters pages were any indication- so they gradually began to make PS more of an active participant in the stories, even having guest stars such as Deadman pop up. Eventually, David Michelinie and a young turk named Paul Levitz ended up writing the book, even attempting to create an ongoing continuity of sorts with a recurring villain, something which the book hadn't had since Tannarak and Tala- before it finally got canned with issue #41. It was the first time in a few years that I had had a comic that I regularly bought and liked get cancelled, the previous instance being the Adams/Thomas X-Men in the late 60's. Kinda messed with me at the time, but I soon grew to get used to it.

Besides, PS kept popping up in titles like Justice League; this volume also features the Stranger's not-bad first appearance in issue #103- I was buying Justice League at the time and it was written by Len Wein, so it was triply cool. Also included are two Brave and the Bold appearances, only one of which (#98) I've read, and a late 70's House of Secrets, which seemed to be a testing-of-the-waters for a PS comeback, but apparently it didn't impress. While the art was by Gerry Talaoc, the script was by Gerry Conway, who was utterly mediocre on his previous stint on the character. I used to have this one, but don't anymore and couldn't tell you what it was about to save my life.

So, anyway, SHOWCASE PRESENTS: PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 2. Supposedly coming out in March. I'm geeked for it.

And yeah, I know- this is a comics post. Am I already coming out of retirement? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Well hello there!

Looks kinda different around here, doesn't it?

I'm not quite ready to resume operations here yet, but I was bored with the way it looked so I decided it was time to make a change, as I mentioned I might in my "goodbye post" below.

I'll probably replace the links before too long. I'm also thinking I'll put up a "Best of 2007" in comics list sometime before the end of the year. After that? Who knows.

Anyway, cheers, ta for now, keep watching the skies, and don't forget the LJ!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five years. What a surprise. My brain hurts a lot. I never thought I'd meet so many people.

Yes, it was five years ago today that, inspired to create my own by a link on one of Elayne Riggs' message board posts, I tentatively wrote this, my first tentative steps towards joining in on the whole internet weblogging thingamabob. Since then, as I've said before, I've met a whole lot of wonderful people, including many that I have revered growing up; had some incredible (and sadly, only one profitable) opportunities that I would not have been afforded had I not started, and by and large have had a pretty good time writing about, as I was fond of putting it, "stuff I like".

Then, not long after I started, the Comics Blogosphere happened, and since I was reviewing and writing about comics as well as music, movies, sports and TV, I was kinda caught up in the groundswell and witnessed how it grew (for better or worse). I have been privileged to see the advent of a ton of great writers who have written either solo or as part of a collective, many of whom extended friendship and respect my way. Even though I kept writing about other things, eventually I decided to focus on comics at the expense of the other subjects, and that's what I've featured here for quite some time now.

Which brings me to an announcement of sorts. Here on my fifth blogging anniversary, I've come to a decision. For a number of reasons, I have decided to shut this blog down for the foreseeable future. I've gone on hiatus before, but this is different.

While I have no intention of giving up my comics habit, which I've spent the best part of 47 years nurturing, I'm frankly just running out of things to say about them. It's not that there aren't still good comics being published, far from it- but there is a mean-spiritedness and an overt cynicism in a lot of what is being published these days that spoils a lot of the entertainment that is presumably there to be had; it's like these writers and artists are terrified that someone won't think they're "hip" or "edgy" so they write the most nihilistic, oppressive things they can think of, and feel satisfied that they've been true to their self-perception as an arbiter of what is "cool", and have serviced their faithful fans. While I have never been opposed to realism or dark tones to any of my fantasy fiction, too much of anything, especially the negative, is never a good thing and just because you CAN do a thing doesn't mean you SHOULD. It's like they're writing as if they're afraid the cool kids will make fun of them. Some writers get it. Many more don't. But all I know is that I seem to be reading fewer and fewer titles these days, almost no mainstream superhero titles, and judging by what I keep seeing here and there around the Web, that's fine with me.

Regardless, and forgive me digressing, there are other factors- I had hoped that when I took my new job in April, the reduced stress would rekindle my enthusiasm, but it hasn't happened. Also adding to my malaise is the fact that more and more I feel like I'm shouting out in the middle of the forest as loudly as I can, but no one is hearing. I do have my readers, I know, and commenters, and I am thankful for all of them. But I look at my referral stats and I'd bet that on a good day, 1/2 to 3/4 of my hits are image searches. I rarely, if ever, get linked to by any of the "major" linkers of the Comics Blogosphere; Deppey pretty much ignores me, and only smirkingly threw me a link bone once since Journalista has relaunched; Heidi, too, and the only time I can recall getting a mention on The Beat was for getting embarrassed and hassled on a message board. Tom Spurgeon, God bless him, will link to my reviews if I send him an email, but I seriously doubt if Jog or Graeme or Carlson has to do the same; and so forth. Speaking of Carlson, I am well beneath her radar as well. Which is not to say that it's their fault; there are lots of voices out there to choose from and frankly, mine has not always been the clearest, loudest or brightest, nor have I always stayed in key. And please understand that I'm fully aware that when it comes to writing and/or reviewing with length, substance and insight, I am in no way the equal of a Jog, Ian Brill, Alan David Doane, or Bill Sherman, to name a few. I recognize and accept my shortcomings. After all, I'm a graphic designer slash prepress artist, not a journalist. But still, a little recognition goes a long way towards building enthusiasm, that's all I'm saying. Shouting into the void becomes wearisome. I just don't feel like part of the conversation anymore, and I can't muster up the enthusiasm to do what it takes to join in again.

I've always said that when this came to be more like an obligation or a chore than something I did for fun, then I would stop. That's what it's become, so that's what I'm going to do. If you, for some godforsaken reason, just want to read what I might post in the future, by all means visit my LiveJournal- I intend to put stuff up there from time to time. It probably won't be comics stuff though. I also intend to continue the Elton John commentary blog, since it will have a finite time of ending at some point in the future. I still plan on dropping a comment once in a while here and there, because not writing about comics doesn't necessarily mean stop reading what others have to say about them. And I'm not ruling out a return to writing about comics- I plan to keep buying and reading them. I just am not going to worry myself about squeezing out what I laughingly refer to as "reviews" weeks after everyone else has read them and discussed them at length. For the last several months, there have been far too many memes and uninspired "posting a cover" types of posts, and it just needs to stop. If for some reason I change my mind and return to this blog, I may just start over with a new template and get rid of a lot of the flair I have over there on the linkbar. Who knows. I don't want to seal up the door, just put a good, sturdy lock on it.

Anyway, that's it. Happy 5 years to me. I just want to say thank you to everyone who's ever stopped by and spent some time, and linked to me, or commented. The friendships and acquaintances I've made are a source of much joy to me. Thanks to everyone for everything. Be good, be good to each other, and may every song you sing be your favorite tune, in the words of Mick Jagger.

It remains to Freakazoid to have the final say, I think. Apologies for stealing Tom Foss' April Fool's Day prank.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Y'know, there was a time when I would go through the monthly new comics solicitations for DC, Marvel, Image, and others, and devote a long post to them, even posting cover images and everything. I'm finding that as with so many other things, I'm just not finding a whole lot of time, desire, or energy to do that anymore. Combine that with the predominant apathy I feel towards much of DC, Marvel, and others' published output, with about $50 worth of monthly exceptions, and that explains a great deal. To my satisfaction, anyway.

However, finding myself with a modicum of all three tonight, I did notice a few things as I scrolled through January's DC offerings...and they are as follows:

First and most notable to me is the DIANA PRINCE: WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1 TP, something I never ever thought I'd see, Hell, I figured they'd put out a Thriller collection before they'd reprint these late 60's-early 70's stories, in which they let Mike Sekowsky (with DC 70's MVP Dennis O'Neil scripting) totally revamp the Amazon Princess into something more like the Avengers' Emma Peel, played with aplomb by Diana Rigg. As I'm sure most of you know, she lost her superpowers, depended on martial arts skills instead, mentored by an elderly blind Asian man who went by the sobriquet "I Ching". She was also given an assortment of Emma Peel-esque groovy 60's outfits to wear. Wonder Woman fans, the ones who have actually read them that is, are mixed in their opinions about this relatively brief period in the characters' history. Me? Well...I'll be honest here, I've never read any of them in their entirety. Well, that's not exactly true- I used to own a copy of #202, the penultimate Diana Prince... issue, and that was because it featured Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, whom I had discovered a few months after this one hit the stands in 1972. I picked it up in the back issue bin. That said, I have read a few pages here and there via such sources as the scans_daily LJ community, Wonder Woman-devoted websites and so forth, and have always been fascinated by them.

Now, I should add here that I am not particularly a fan of the established Wonder Woman character; when I was a kid growing up, I did have an issue or two as I recall, and did enjoy her in the Justice League stories of the day...but she never grabbed me as hard as many of the other DC/Marvel superheroes, male or female, did. Many of those wild-ass Kanigher/Andru/Esposito stories were just too childishly weird for my childishly weird tastes. Since I wasn't really a fan of the character, I didn't care much when they altered her so drastically (coincidentally, if you clicked the last link above, you'll notice that one issue I owned as an 8-year-old was the last issue before the change) but neither did I want to read about a de-powered superhero (even though I loved watching The Avengers, strangely enough) I didn't buy a single issue of the entire Diana Prince run. Don't really even remember seeing them on the spinner racks, come to think of it. As I got older, despite some sweet Nick Cardy covers, the 1970's and most of the 80's were made up of a ton of bland, uninspired comics, a real waste of trees like so many of DC and Marvel's main licensed properties were in that long-lost decade. Perez and Byrne in the 80's and 90's left me cold. I loved the Bolland and Hughes covers, and Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke's take in JLA in the mid-late 90's and Aughts. And that's about it. But I've always been fascinated by that 20-something issue run that I barely saw, that took what has always been (sorry, everybody) an uninteresting and somewhat silly character IN MY OPINION, (and don't get me started about that costume) for the most part and reimagined her in a radical way. Of course, O'Neil was golden in the 70's and I've always enjoyed Sekowsky's...unique...take on anatomy and action depiction. Problem is, back issues are hard to find, and expensive when you can find them on eBay or wherever.

So what I'm trying to work my way up to is that I am delighted to see this is scheduled to come out, all in one place for easy readin', (well, a good chunk of the run, anyway, up to issue #184- tempers my excitement a bit- I wish it was more but I couldn't afford it if it was) and I am going to drop coin on this as soon as possible.

Other stuff I'm amazed to see is that Bob Haney-scripted TEEN TITANS: THE LOST ANNUAL that DC did their best to bury a year or two ago. Too bad that Bob won't be around to see it come out, although I don't really think he gave a shit one way or the other by the time he passed on, from what I remember reading. Even so, this looks very cool.

BAT LASH #2 is solicited; I recently reread all of his 60's appearances, and am apprehensively awaiting this one. It is my carefully considered opinion that no one has managed to find the right tone for the character since O'Neil stopped doing him in the 60's- the great Sergio Aragones is on hand, true, but the strength of those originals was never in the plotting alone, but in the synergy between Sergio's plots and O'Neil's dialogue style. No one else has even come close, and I hold out no hope for "acclaimed Western novelist" Peter Brandvold. I keep threatening (in my mind) to scan pages from all nine original issues, and post a few pages from each along with an overview...the spirit is willing but the flesh is soft and spongy, or something like that.

Sorry to see that AMERICAN VIRGIN is shitcanned with #23; I almost dropped it twice, but it has been pretty good lately, for the most part. I hope that it will get a satisfying resolution of some sort, and that Seagle will pick a tone before he's done.

That's about it for DC. Oh, and dear Mr. Unidentified Solicitation Copy Writer: THANKS for spoiling major events in the text for FABLES #69. Punk.

On the Marvel side, I'll be getting Daredevil and Iron Fist, as usual, and not much else catches my eye. Oh- Iron Man-Enter the Mandarin #5, because I like the art. I'm undecided about Omega, but I may get that too.

And, that's about it!

Now playing: T. Rex - The Time Of Love Is Now
via FoxyTunes

Via the Beat and Flog comes news that the great Marie Severin suffered a stroke last Thursday. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery and wishing her all the best. Click on either link for an address to which one can send get-well cards and such.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


That more-or-less ongoing feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 23 September to 8 October, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

I'm really sorry these are so late. These things happen, although it happens less frequently to some than to others... **= newer reviews.

AMERICAN VIRGIN #19: Enough foreplay- let's have a money shot or forget it. I also thought that Adam's tat was to prevent his being haunted by the ghost or spirit or vision or whatever of his dead ex-girlfriend. I've been known to be wrong before, though. B+

NICK MAGAZINE PRESENTS AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER #2: As (apparently) the world's oldest Avatard, I had to pick this up- and good thing, too: among the fake advice columns, sudoku and word find puzzles there are several four-to-six page stories, illustrated by such fine young artists as Reagan Lodge and Johane "I'd sure like to see some more Horus" Matte, and the kicker is that these stories actually depict events that have a bearing on the Nickelodeon TV series! Most unusual. Anyway, depending on your level of Avatar fandom (and believe me, this thing coming out just before season three generated insane levels of interest on all the fansites), it's all very entertaining, printed on high quality paper, and best of all, it's wrapped in a cover by the most excellent Lauren Montgomery. Not for everybody, but then again, what is? And you should be watching Avatar anyway- it's better, more sophisticated, than you might think. A-

BATMAN #669: Morrison and Williams take the ball all the way to the opponents' 2 yard line, only to fumble it into the end zone for a touchback. Forgive the strained football metaphor, but that's the way this seemed to me- brilliant setup, botched ending that demands blame be divided between the principals equally: Williams, being just a little too overenthusiastic in his designerly layout at the expense of storytelling clarity, and Morrison, presumably not making it clear enough through dialogue exactly what was happening to whom, how people could survive being in the room with highly charged explosives, and so on and so forth. Ah well. Given a pass because, after all is said and done, this is still the best Batman story I've read in this decade, an indictment of the handful I have read (nearly all comics writers seem to be satisfactory-endingly challenged anyway) and best of all it had the SQUIRE in it! That's an extra grade point all by itself! A-

BLACK DIAMOND #4: Having missed #3, I was at a bit of a loss as to what was going on, but after a couple of reads (and Larry Young's helpful inclusion of this issue's script) realized that #2's diner waitress and our nominal hero had hooked up and were on the run from somebody. This issue, we get a lot of action, but Proctor's art is still so lifeless and static that it really works against what Larry's trying to do. Nothing against Proctor, who in all fairness has his still-life moments, but his approach is counter-intuitive to what the script would seem to demand. Dude, would a speed line or two here or there kill ya, is all I'm asking. On the other hand, the more Larry focuses on the fringe civilization that has sprung up on the superhighway itself, the more I'm warming to the concept, although I still have a hard time accepting that the people on Earth below would ever agree to risk having a '71 Camaro drop on their heads from out of the blue without warning. Oh well, Roger Corman never sweated that stuff either, and he did pretty well. I'm afraid I'm judging this by what I wish it wasrather than what it is, which is still entertaining and worth checking out. But it's becoming a lot like watching a series of stills of A Waking Life, and that's not exactly what I think anyone had in mind when they started. Faring a bit better, thanks to the Pope-lite art by Josh Boulet and a nicely naturalistic script by Rob Lavender, is the back feature, which spotlights a kid who dares to ride a bicycle on the Diamond. I'm liking these back features for the most part, they're providing a good spotlight for up-and-coming talent. B+

BLACK GHOST APPLE FACTORY: Ah me. Alienation, depression, unrequited feelings of love. What would Indie cartooning be without them? Don't know, but I get the feeling that Jeremy Tinder would be at a bit of a loss for anything to say. Despite some clever, surreal gags and his likeable Craig Thompson-meets-Johnny Ryan artwork, after a while he begins to come across as just another needy, whiny, probably-not-as-much-of-a-loser-as-he'd-have-you-think cartoonist and believe you me there are MORE than enough of those to go around. There's a fair share of things to like in this shortish collection, and I don't mean to sound like I'm dumping on Tinder here, but after a while you begin to wonder what a comic like this would be like as done by someone who actually will cop to having sex and/or a relationship more often as not would be like, and agree with the little voice in your head that says "Physician, heal thyself!" C+

CATWOMAN #71: More of what had become obvious six issues ago, that CW needs to do a better job of assuming a new life and fake ID. This time she gets help from Batman, no big surprise there, and several clever scenes ensue before an ending which promises to address another dangling plot thread. Another solid read, wonderfully, if a little stiffly, illustrated, and if you're not reading other DC books but not this on a regular basis, well, shame on you. A-

CRIMINAL #9: Looks like the excrement is about to hit the oscillating ventilation device, as Tracy lays his cards on the table, perhaps a little prematurely. Another outstanding issue that is, as always, hard to review objectively- not to mention difficult to find new ways to praise its consistent excellence. A

GREEN ARROW YEAR ONE #5: It's kinda by-the-numbers James Bond stuff, if Bond shot arrows instead of Berettas, and if it's not exactly fresh, the emphasis on Ollie Queen the man instead of the standard Green Arrow Personality Type is very well done. Plus, anytime you get Jock doing action, you, my friend, have something that is made of win. Boy, do I miss The Losers. A-

HELLBLAZER #236: It remains a sheer pleasure to read Diggle's take on Constantine- and for the first time in what seems like an eternity, he's actually given him a thoroughly evil and eminintly capable pair of adversaries. Manco continues to tell the story competently, if not exceptionally. A-

HIGHWAYMEN #4: After all the rumpus about its failure to sell well enough, in these weird and troubled times in the Comics World, to be continued beyond its initial run- not to mention Steven Grant's typically hightoned and ever-so-slightly condescending takedown of some of its internal story inconsistencies- it feels kinda beside the point to note that this was another involving issue, with what I thought was some good character interaction and solid action set pieces...and if this issue's cliffhanger was borrowed straight outta 1994's Charlie Sheen vehicle Terminal Velocity, well, who remembers that movie anyway? 13 years is an eternity these days. B+

**THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #9, IMMORTAL IRON FIST ANNUAL #1: Iron Fist keeps rolling on; #9 gives us the result of Danny Rand's opening round Mortal Kombat-style tournament battle against Fat Cobra- and I don't mind telling you that even though he loses, it puts him on the road to discovery. So far, Brubaction (or would you prefer Frabaker?) are striking a nice balance- you can tell Fraction's influence from the sheer what-the-hellishness of all the various influences and ideas he brings, but unlike Casanova, Brubaker can tell a grounded, linear story, and we, the readers, are the beneficiary. David Aja is solid as always on art, fully able to provide the Malleev/Lark/Gaudiano style that the decision makers behind this title seem to want. The guest artists, Scott Koblish and Ray Allen Martinez, seem to aspire to a Geoff Darrow-ish style, and while they fall far short they're not terrible. The light, open nature of their work and the way its colored really contrasts with the dark gloom of Aja on the main story, and that's intentional, I suppose. But what purpose it serves isn't easily ascertained. Anyway, the discovery road Danny sets off on leads to the annual, in which he is filled in on Randall's history by an old sidekick. It's a huge, sprawling pulp magazine adventure tribute, lavishly illustrated by Dan Brereton, Howard Chaykin (in the modern-day framing scenes), and Marco Djurdjevic's significant other, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic, and is good fun from beginning to end, especially in Brereton's sequences, which are brilliantly painted in reds, golds, oranges and greens. It's been a little while since I'd seen new art from him and it was good to do so. Now, if he'd only get around to doing more Nocturnals, in an affordable format that is. #9: A-, Annual #1: A-.

**THE INCREDIBLE CHANGE-BOTS: The latest from Jeffrey Brown is a straightfaced Transformers homage/tribute/something that reads like it was written and drawn by a really smart 12-year-old. Being a little...advanced... in years for being part of the generation that grew up loving GI Joe, GoBots, Transformers, Thundercats and all that ilk, this really just kinda sits there on the page for me. So really, all I can do is appreciate the lack of smirk- as with Kochalka on Superf*ckers, I never get the feeling that Brown is doing anything but having fun, and not at the expense of the genre or whatever you want to call it; and bemoan the length of the darn thing. Page numbers are not provided, and I have no desire to count them, but it's just too damn long, even for an Awesomebots story. B

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #'s 1,2: Joe Casey remakes/remodels an old Lee/Heck Tales of Suspense yarn, taking 6 issues to tell a story that his predecessors told in one. But don't take this as one of those "Comics Have Abandoned Their Charming Past, and the Present is Therefore Fucked" diatribes...the decompression isn't wasted space, it's filled with equal measures of not-so-essential technojargon which adds flair if little else, and more importantly nice character bits with the good old Classic Iron man cast of Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, the Russian dude who ended up as the Crimson Dynamo, and but uf cuss the Mandarin himself, more megalomaniacal, arrogant and conceited than ever. The main reason why I decided to pick this up, though, was the extremely dynamic art of Eric Canete, who manages to combine the goofyfooted loosey-gooseyness of the great Guy Davis with Walt Simonson's layout and storytelling chops, and provides real eye candy. I haven't read a lot of Iron Man comics over the last 20 years or so, to say the least, but so far this one appears to be a winner. A-

JLA/HITMAN #1: Those singing the praises of not only this, but the second part (out on stands, but I won't get it until this weekend) are certainly justified- it's as good as anything Ennis has written (well, anything I've read by him, anyway, which hasn't been much since 2001 or so) in at least ten years- it's amusing somehow how good he can be when he's writing the character he seems to wish-fulfill, I mean like, the most...and on top of that, he even gets to do what he likes more than anything, make fun of super-hero tropes. For his part, good ol' John McCrea draws it like it was 1996 all over again, which is to say with a witty line and solid layout sense. But before we get carried away in our effusive praise of how great it is to see Tommy Monaghan back among the upright once more, I just want to think back to the original series, which I bought faithfully right off the racks until the bitter end, and how by the 3/4 turn it became more Star Spangled Desert Storm Stories starring Tommy's Heroes and less the original concept of Tommy pranking on the JLA and carrying out contracts on the bottom of the DCU barrel, and how tedious it got before the admittedly bravura finale, not to mention the magnificent one-shot Lobo team-up. What I hope to accomplish by pointing this out I can't say for sure, except to note that while I do indeed hope that the solid reception this two-parter has received spurs the long-overdue release of the rest of the original series in TPB format, I suppose the kids out there should know that it wasn't all puking on Batman. That's all, I guess. A

MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #4: Having effectively given up on this title after last issue's showoff move, I am gratified to note that Allred is, at least, attempting to tell a linear story once more. But that gratitude is tempered by his insistence towards playing that "this time it's for reals- or is it?" game which I lost patience for after #2. Enough, as they say, is enough. C+

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #1: I'll confess right now: although I was certainly a comics buyer back in 1975, and one with not only an affinity for the weirder corners of Marvel and DC but something of an admirer of Steve Gerber's writing to boot, I did not buy the original iteration of this licensed property. I wasn't excited by the stolid art of Jim Mooney (tolerated it a year or so prior on Son of Satan), and something about the Captain Marvel-on-'shrooms concept itself didn't push the right buttons in my head either. So I'm completely in the dark about how this somewhat controversial revival matches up with its predecessor; I only have vague memories of a handful of mildly interested glances at a few issues over a few months while standing at the spinner rack. So I'm coming in completely cold here, just want you to know. Jonathan Lethem acquits himself pretty well for the most part, paying lip service to Steve Gerber's original but adding a bit of that Aughts smirk by throwing in some sort of superhero character called the Mink, who promises to be some sort of irritant/adversary/whatever to Omega or his teenage alter-ego. Otherwise, his deadpan dialogue, delivered by (in most cases, aptly enough) robots, works to add a layer of surreality to the proceedings. However, as is so often the case, it's the art by Indie stalwart Farel Dalrymple that captures my eye; it too has a straightfaced, grubby quality that grounds the oddball proceedings very well. Almost too well- in spite of how good I think it is, there's not a whole lot of visual pop to it and that works against it in a lot of ways. Still, at the end of the day there's enough to keep me interested, especially if he goes beyond merely remixing what Gerber and Mooney did 30 years ago. We'll see, I guess. Maybe if I get some mushrooms. B+

**RESURRECTION #1: Another spin on Wells' War of the Worlds, this time dealing with the aftermath of the Martian invasion. Can't blame Oni for trying to get in on that Walking Dead buzz train, because that's what this reminded me of right off the bat: post-apocalyptic human-interest dramatics, drawn in a semi-realistic B&W style. Much better than Boom! Studios' attempt to extrapolate Wells, Second Wave or whatever the hell they ended up calling it, this could have legs, especially to the same crowd that has made Dead such a small-scale success- hell, it's even got a kind of zombie in it, called a "burn", humans who the aliens experimented on and now shamble around trying to kiss pretty girls and waiting for a bullet to the brain. No bets are left unhedged! I suppose whatever cachet that writer Marc Guggenheim has as a former TV writer might also make this more attractive to some as well. Anyhoo, if you're a fan of the above mentioned elements, you should look for this when it comes out in November. Everybody else...proceed with caution. C+

**THE SPIRIT #10: Now hold on- #9's grisly goings-on weren't part one of a two-parter? Apparently not, because here comes #10, and no mention of El Muerte, or Denny Colt's bloody "CURSED"-scrawled chest, or any of that. Way to give a guy a mental hernia, Darwyn! Anyway, what we do get is a not-bad, not-great satire of media punditry, with some chuckles here and there, but not nearly enough to be really memorable. Of course, it goes without saying that the art, with Jason Bone on inks doing yeoman work, is excellent as always. But it's become clear, ten issues in, that Cooke just isn't equal to the task of giving us extraordinary Spirit stories. That's no crime, and it may not be possible anyway- but I'm thankful for the effort. B+

**UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS V2 #1: Dan Acuna is gone, off drawing the Flash, and he's replaced by another who-dat name of Renato Arlem, whose work reminds me of some sort of unholy mix of Ed Benes, Gene Ha and Alex Maleev. It's functional, but its static poses and choppy black ink lines are hard on my eyes. I would rather have had Renato Guedes, if I had to have a Renato here. Otherwise, more of the "is we is, or is we ain't gonna be a secret government op agency" thing gets talk talk talked about, and when they're not talking, the focus is on the new Red Bee character who has gotten into deep pollen on some sort of space bug hive, and has undergone an unspecified change of some sort. Graymiotti state that the team has been fighting there for three days, which begs the question of how (mostly) human beings can do that without eating or sleeping or going to the bathroom...but hey, I've never been in a superhero fight with giant alien space bugs so how would I know? I kinda like these characters, really like their Uncle Sam, but this sort of hackneyed spandex crap tests my patience. B-

Also, to FINALLY finish this overdue and overlong look at books most of you have already read and have forgotten about, I was recently sent a box by the wonderful folks at Top Shelf Comix. The offerings I hadn't already read and reviewed, I have included in this column. However, they also sent the final published versions of a few that I had already written about- and I felt like the least I could do was link to the past columns with those reviews. So here they are:




Still to come, looks at Matt Kindt's latest, SUPER SPY (haven't finished it yet!) and Top Shelf's nicely done SEASONAL SAMPLER 2007.

Now playing: Phil Manzanera - Diamond Head
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Friday, October 12, 2007

I sat out a week, but I'm back and in effect, with

Tonight's brawl is courtesy of Len Wein and the late, great Jim Aparo, from Phantom Stranger #24- Len's final issue of his outstanding run on that title. Here we see PS and ongoing foe/ally Tannarak putting a beatdown on some Dark Circle cultists. The Stranger didn't throw down often, but when he did, he made it count.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reviews will continue tonight, but I was clicking around hither and thither and discovered something interesting- well, to me, anyway- the REST of the website of Tex Arcana creator JOHN FINDLAY, which has several beautiful pieces like the above Ben Franklin illo above.

Because I'm such a hopeless Tex degenerate, I still check the site to see if John's updated the ongoing fourth book (which he hasn't since frigging JANUARY, damn it) but had never thought to click anywhere else on the page! That's how I found his illustration site.

So go check it, already!

Now playing: Anthony Phillips - Collections
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I now interrupt what has apparently turned into yet another blogging hiatus to observe what would have been JOHN LENNON's 67th birthday.

Surprisingly Rock 'n' Roll-heavy favorite song list, as of 2005.

If you're still bothering to visit, please bear with. I'll "get back" (ouch) in the saddle eventually.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Over at X-Ray Spex, Will Pfiefer is blogging about his favorite horror/fright/supernatural/you know films, and today's is a longtime favorite of mine as well: 1941's The Devil and Daniel Webster. You should go read what he wrote, but I thought it would be cool to post the trailer for the movie, which I found on the YouTube.

Now playing: Iris Dement - When Love Was Young
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Monday, October 01, 2007

Brian Marucca and Jim Rugg have created a new Brother Voodoo story, with tongue only slightly in cheek (there's an "injury to the eye" panel!) and complete with yellowed paper and poor color register. It is teh awesome.

Edit: Apparently Mr. Rugg jumped the gun by posting this, because it's been taken down from his LJ. Oh well. Something to look forward to, I suppose! Heidi has a panel posted over at the Beat, too, and it's just as well because everybody will remember seeing it first over there anyway. Wish I hadn't overwritten the page file I got the above from!

Sunday, September 30, 2007


The more-or-less ongoing feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 12 to 22 September, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

**- newer reviews.

100 BULLETS #85:The Standard Review: 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 15 issues. Kudos to Azzarello for bringing back a minor character from what seems like a small eternity ago and making her very interesting. A-

BPRD: KILLING GROUND #2: Lots of stuff going on all at once in this mini, which is less of an entity unto itself and more of an ongoing that simply retitles itself every four months or so. If you're a fan of all this, as I am, then I'm sure you'll be just as delighted as I'm sure you've been for the last year or two. If not, well, it's going to be hard to get you up to speed. Fortunately, everything here is never less than engaging, and of course Guy Davis is drawing it so the storytelling is el perfecto. I must admit being amused by Johann the former Ghost in a Containment Suit and his adventures in his new artificial body; kinda reminds me of this Futurama episode. A-

DAREDEVIL #100: The main story has pretty much devolved into an yet another as-always illustratively accomplished exercise in "how much misery can we dump on Matt Murdock until he eventually drags himself up from the depths of his despair and triumphs a la Frank Miller's holy writ", and this approach, no matter how skillfully and believably written, has become Ouroboros-like in its dreary inevitability. Of more interest, and even more perplexedly so to your humble scribe, is the inclusion, enabled via the extra-large size of this anniversary issue, of two Gerry Conway and Gene Colan 1970's stories which he read back when he was twelve years old and really liked (as he recalls), pitting DD and the Black Widow against Mr. Fear, the main story's out-of-the-blue adversary. Dropping the third person now, you're welcome... I had forgotten them for the most part, but found they were fast-paced and enjoyable enough (even though wince-inducingly dialogued, in that imitation Roy Thomas style all Marvel writers employed back then except for Don McGregor) to make me reconsider my long-held belief that Conway was a hack of the highest order- a perhaps-unjust opinion established by the hundreds of awful stories he later wrote for DC. Plus, there are pinups and Lark-pencilled pages, and I suppose all things considered, the extra buck for a history lesson isn't too much to ask. A-

**CASANOVA #9: As usual, even as I admire the characters and concepts, this remains a chore to read. There's just something about those concepts, and the outstanding art by Gab and now Fab, that keeps me coming back every issue for varying degrees of pleasure...but I get weary of feeling like the densest kid in the room after I've done so. Alas, poor Moon- where brother Ba got a subdued olive green coloration for his tenure, Fabio gets a truly eye-hurting Cerulean blue. Somebody really shoulda looked at a press proof before moving forward with that. Still, I'll bump this up a notch because his sexy Kate Hudson Shari Moon Zombie Sasa Lisi is so engaging. Gaga for Sasa? Sure. B+

**DMZ #23: In case you were wondering what happened to all the taggers in NYC during Civil War II, well, wonder no further. This one focuses on one particularly independent fellow who has a grand scheme in mind which he sees through to the surprisingly satisfying ending. Artist Burchielli's style has begun to morph somehow, becoming less fussy- not necessarily better, just looser. B+

**DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #2: If they ever decided to publish a Metafilter comic book, then surely as day follows night Warren Ellis would be the man to script it, and here's the proof. Ellis continues to recycle the multitudes of internet trivia that he seems to gather like prospectors panned for gold, and Sleepless, with its Shriekyware and Biometrs and other Gibsonesque contrivances, seems to be the repository for all the minutiae that he collects like a fanboy collects #1 issues of X-Men comics. Fortunately, as always, he is bailed out by his terse dialogue and matter-of-fact presentation, which makes this a lot more involving than it probably should be. I especially liked the flashback to the encounter with "Don Bastardos" on the Amazon, and its welcome humor. Ellis isn't helped much by Ivan "Pudge" Rodgriguez' meticulously rendered, but lifeless, sterile and stiffly posed artwork. An artist with some spark, or even a recognizable style that aspires to something other than Chris Weston-lite, would really make this title sing. Oh well, what do you want, perfection? B+

**FABLES #65: Fables keeps rolling on, as good now (if not better) than it's ever been with this Arthurian, but not only thus, storyline. Buckingham and Leialoha are looking more like Jack Kirby than ever before on art as well. By now, this book has entered that zone of "consistently consistent in its consistent excellence" realm. Which is good for readers, but hell on reviewers... A-

**FAKER #3: This keeps getting progressively wiggier, and I remain mildly interested in what is at the bottom of all. Of course, this is another example of a moderately interesting idea being thrown in the deep end and being expected to swim; it's almost predestined to fail simply by coming out given the market these days. The only way it could be worse is if it was a WildStorm title. It's too bad that anthology titles don't sell either; this would have been perfect for something along the lines of DC's old Time Warp SF antho book. Oh well, if its and buts were candies and nuts... B+

JONAH HEX #23 Mashup of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the obscure HBO films' El Diablo, more engrossing than you'd think and graced with typically outstanding Jordi Bernet art. How Bernet manages to depict grim events with such a lively and graceful line is beyond me, but of such is talent made. A-

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #1: I think I must be the only person in the world who finds this Shadow/Doc Savage pastiche to be one of Mignola's least inspired creations. Jason Armstrong, who I last saw, using a cleaner, more Timm-esque style on Legion of Super-Heroes back in the late '90s, does a creditable Guy Davis impersonation on art here. So, if you're fond of pastiches and imitation, well, knock yourself out. Me, I'm kind of a Hellboy completist, so I will continue to buy but it's gonna have to do something mighty special to make me like. C+

METAL MEN #2: I like the spirit and the fresh new character designs (except his still wonky-looking Doc Magnus), but the execution is cluttered, claustrophobic and chaotic, to coin a few "c" words, and this is a lot more of a chore to read than I would think a Metal Men comic should be. I will admit the admittedly neat Kanigheresque "Balloonatic" badguy is fun, but he feels like he has to give us Escher-like layouts in service of an over, under, sideways, down flash-back and flash-forward storytelling approach which purports to explain the whys and wherefores of Doc Magnus' robot crew but only engenders confusion and disinclination to read further, at least in your humble scribe here. I want to like this, really I do, but I don't think I want to like it this much. C+

NARCOLEPTIC SUNDAY Young man afflicted with narcolepsy (hence the title, although the character denies it) sleeps with a girl, wakes up, and discovers his bedmate was murdered while he slumbered. Young man proceeds to get mixed up in a murder mystery with all the usual late night Skinemax action thriller elements- transvestites, drugs and drug money, strippers, crooked cops, suitcases full of cash, you know the rest. This first-time scripting effort by Jeremy Haun, usually known as an artist on such efforts as The Leading Man, isn't bad- he's not going to make anybody forget Raymond Chandler or even Frank Miller, but the dialogue's fine and there's a good twist at the end which isn't too far out of left field. Problem is, he gets stuck with an absolutely awful art job by one Brian Koschak, whose mangaesque stylings would be all wrong for this sort of story anyway but compounds the problem with providing only minimal detail on his figures and backgrounds, and surrounding all of the former with a thick black line, perfectly fine when done right but completely overdone and misused here. Better luck next time, Jeremy. C

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #2: Graymiotti are throwing big hunks of pulp against the wall, and are wisely keeping the pace fast so we don't notice how slight it all is. Khari Evans does a great job, but needs to work on drawing Shanna's head in proportion to the rest of her body- maybe her colossal boobs are creating this illusion, but I doubt it...her head looks a size and a half too small, even when you cover up her breasts. Not the kind of distraction they're aiming for, I don't think. B-

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