Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Well, new to me, anyway. The BSNCR is the venue by which I take the opportunity, unsolicited, to opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction 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 10 to 27 March, 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...

**-new reviews since last time.

S: Grant Morrison; A: Gene Ha. (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)

Having the Authority end up on "our" world is a not-bad idea, as befits the one-man House of Ideas that is our Grant. Gene Ha has done his usual outstanding job illustrating it, too. So why does this seem so static and inert? Well, the delay between this and #1 doesn't help, but I think perhaps Ha's art, as good as it is, just doesn't provide the dynamism necessary for the subject matter, a state of affairs exacerbated by the muted and glum colors of Art Lyon. Also, really, even though Morrison's idea has promise, it's been done many times before, and the "Eww, this world is so yucky bad" stuff was old the last time. Really, let's face it, the only suspense comes from finding out how much mischief Midnighter will get into, something he's doing just fine over in his own solo title. So, it's almost not not bad I suppose. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to get interesting, as long as it's in this decade. B

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

Once more, the sprawling B.P.R.D. cast gets put through their paces in this stage-setting issue which is full of nice little character bits and makes me realize more than ever just how damn good Guy Davis is. I also realized that I still wish that there could be more Nevermen, but that's foolish of me, I know. A-

S: Mark Waid; A: George Perez, Bob Wiacek. (DC, $2.99)

Issue two of 2007's most surprising comic so far pretty much lives up to its not-bad predecessor; sure, the Hal Jordan/flirty Supergirl scenes are a little uncomfortable at best, but kids, older men do have those sorts of thoughts, and right or wrong it's the actions that count and GL did the right thing. Besides, with the way they're portraying Supergirl these days, it can't be easy to write her if you're not looking to it seems to me Waid did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. Can't really defend the later baby-doll wrestler scene too convincingly, but let's not forget that SG was trying to lull the bettors into making sucker bets, so at least there was rationale as well. I've read worse, and I'd be willing to wager (in keeping with this issue's theme) that many of the most vocal critics have, too. All in all, another fast-paced chapter, with a few laughs and a gnarly plotline that surprisingly still hasn't gone off the rails. Yet. For his part, Perez's work is much better suited to this sort of outer-space shenanigans than it is anything which necessitates depicting realism, as he proved in last issue's Vegas scenes, and come what may, he can still clutter up a panel like nobody's business. That cover makes-a my ganglia twitch, as John Whorfin would say. So far, so good- hope it lasts. B+

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

The finale to the first story plays itself out in bloody fashion, no surprise there, and despite a little flash of illogic here and there (really, what are the odds of hitting someone right in the grill with a bag of smack tossed from about three feet away?) is as satisfying as it is disappointing. Not disappointing as a story or as a whole, but disappointing in our hopes for Leo, whom the reader is (in time-honored noir fashion) set up for reader sympathy but it is of course incumbent upon the writer to remind us that no matter how much we may like the protagonist, he's still a crook so he gets what he deserves. As usual, Phillips excels and it's good to see that drawing zombies for a paycheck hasn't dulled his skills. A

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mike Allred. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Pat resolution to last issue's cliffhanger as once more it is drilled into our heads that Bigby Wolf doesn't like and/or trust his dad. Good job by Mike Allred on art- while it's still a little stiff, he does inject some dynamism when it's needed. B+

S/A: Andy Hartzell. (Top Shelf, $10)

Well, y'see, it's foxes. And bunnies. And it's not really so funny, unless we're talking funny strange and not funny ha ha. Depicting a world in which foxes live in a society which, logically enough, preys on their long-eared cohabitants and focusing on one fox in particular who has a yen to not hunt and eat, but coexist and perhaps even become a bunny, this sans dialogue, black and white parable of sorts has a point to make about the blurring of lines between people of all sorts of types and the improtance of following your convictions, muses, and so on. It gets a little out of control towards the end, with one of those chaotic endings that have become a staple of most contemporary fiction, but Hartzell's angular art likeably moves it along well enough and the story sticks with you after it's done. Worth a look, especially if you're a fox who longs to be a bunny and vice versa. B+

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Phil Noto. (DC, $2.99)

So...not only is Jonah an excellent marksman, tracker and bounty hunter, but he also has many of the same skills as Zelda Rubenstein's Poltergeist character, and can use Native American magic to call someone back from the other side!

This bit of silliness aside, I kinda like that Tallulah Black character- the notion of setting up a female counterpart to the title character is a pretty good one. And while this issue's climactic gunfight got stretched out to the point of absurdity, it was redeemed somewhat by the perfectly-in-character bastardly treatment Jonah gives her at the end. So while this wasn't exactly a gripping read, it didn't exactly suck either. Artwise, another slick, superficial job by Noto, who has improved his layout style but still draws interiors like the excellent cover artist he is. B-

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Brad Walker, Fernando Blanco, Robin Riggs. (DC, $2.99)

Unintentionally funny Superman cameos aside, I'm still finding the Chase subplot a lot more interesting than all the superheroics (not to mention the courtroom stuff, which even in my less-than-knowledgable eyes just seems off) involving the lead. Guess that should come as no surprise, since Miz C's supporting role was the reason I started picking this title up in the first place. B+

S/A: Renee French. (Top Shelf, $10)

In which Miz French tries to do something besides the subtly detailed work that most people are familiar with, such as The Soap Lady. Basically an account of two mice who happen upon a ball of "crap" of some sort, and a third who desperately wants to be pals with the others, it's clever enough and often amusing, but if there's some sort of Significant Meaning to it all it completely evaded my often less than perceptive eyes. I understand this has been a serialized webcomic, and perhaps it had more of a plot in that format, can't say for sure because I've never actually taken the time to read it that way. Guess that's something to look into in the future. Even though the drawings are kinda crude compared to her usual style, they're still full of gnarly life, and generally I liked this and wouldn't mind reading more. Seekers for for Deeper Meaning, though, might want to look elsewhere. C+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story. (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)

No deeper meaning here either- just Garth writing a revenge tale, implementing his usual funny-gory Preacher-style tricks in this wrap-up of the initial story arc. Don't know what's coming next, but I do know that variations on this theme will get old fast so I hope he, or whoever will be assuming the writing reins after Ennis moves on, will come up with something a little fresher. Hopefully it will involve those bisexual time cops; they're pretty cool. Most notable is the presence of Chris Sprouse pencils for the entire story this time. Will wonders never cease! B+

S/A: Kyle Baker. (Image, $10)

A bit tardy, sure, but well worth the wait. Baker concludes his illustrated adaptation of Turner's account of the slave rebellion that he led in harrowing fashion- this is one brutal, bloody narrative, and one that you won't soon forget after reading it. By far the most powerful artwork he's ever done, and those who only see him as a humor artist might reconsider their opinion afterwards. That said, I sometimes found myself wishing to get some sort of feel for how Mr. Baker the writer/artist felt about the events he was depicting; condemnation, approval, bemusement? Perhaps he felt an objective stance to be the best way to present the subject matter, who knows. Doesn't take away one bit from the overall accomplishment. I also feel like I should send along kudos to Mr. Baker the publisher, who did a fine job of choosing a better paper stock...well worth the additional cost to the purchaser. A+

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Julia Bax, Mike Cavallaro. (Boom! Studios, $3.99)

Actually, between this and Hero Squared, I believe this title has done a better job of delivering the Bwah- it doesn't get bogged down in incessant (albeit often amusing) dialogue like its cousin. Essentially one big long exposition dump between the prissy Mauve Visitor (does anybody else hear Tony Randall's voice when they read his dialogue?) and his erstwhile teammate Tempting Tigress (make that Purring Pussycat), it moves along at a smart clip thanks to some not-bad art by Bax and a really nice, Animated-style intro sequence by Cavallaro. A-

S/A: Jeff Smith. (DC, $5.99)

Part two is as solid as part one, as we get to see Smith's well-considered takes on Tawky Tawny, Doc Sivana and best of all a preschool-age Mary Marvel, illustrated in his fluid and likable style. Further proof (as I've maintained for about 30 years now) that the Marvel Family works best independent of the DCU, rather than shoehorned into it. A

S: Christos Gage; A: Matt Smith. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Flashback slash fill-in issue which recounts earlier Stormwatch events, as the stage gets set for future conflicts, one can only assume. Most notable for a whole issue's worth of Smith art; when he's on, he's quite good in his under-inked, sketchy Mignola-esque style, but when he's not, we get The Keep. Fortunately, he's on this time. B

S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Tom Mandrake, Cliff Chiang. (DC, $3.99)

Well, how 'bout that- good ol' Tom Mandrake returns to the character on which he (with John Ostrander) had a long and memorable run, The Spectre. Of course, this is the goatee Spec, not your older brother's, so we still get plenty of turgid gory unpleasantness masquerading as riveting horror...but an always-welcome Phantom Stranger appearance, even one in which he is acting somewhat out of character is a plus and Mandrake does a hell of a job on art, especially compared to the Greg Capullo wannabes that preceded him. Of course, the Doc Thirteen backup keeps getting more and more absurd, to quote a Bernie Taupin lyric, but it's beautifully drawn as usual and remains the only real reason to buy this book, even for the extra buck. B-

S: Antony Johnson, Dan Evans III; A: Mario Boon. (Image, $2.99. Reviewed from PDF.)

You know me, I'm always up for a weird western, and this definitely qualifies on both accounts. It's no Mutant: Texas, but it hoes a similar row as we get the adventures of young siblings in a weird kind of MiddleWestern Earth that is populated by Orcs and Elves and magic users and so forth. The brother is a buckskinned Firehair-esque beginning spellcaster, and the sister has obtained (took it from her father, whose fate is not revealed) a magic knife which will, I'm sure, be the springboard for a dozen or so future storylines. In fact, a shaman's advice to take the knife back to where it came from to "lay it to rest" provides the impetus for the events which take the duo from Alaska to Texas in this introductory chapter. The "Texas Strangers" of the title refer to a group of these fantasy creatures, who apparently serve as a branch of some sort to the Texas Rangers. It's borderline cutesy, but it's never dull and while there are a number of different influences from a hodgepdge of sources, they're blended together nicely. Plus, we get a nifty Brisco County-style cliffhanger ending. I'm not quite as crazy about the art; I'm completely unfamiliar with Boon's previous work and based on this I'm not inclined to seek out any more. He works a similar style to Timm, J. Bone, and others; clean and cartoonish, but there's a certain clumsiness to the inkline and figure drawings that stands out (page 15 is an example- the figure drawings are awkward as all get out), and the characters all sport the sharpest chins this side of Dick Tracy. That said, he does help the story move along at that aforementioned quick pace, and that's a plus. Also, I'm not sure how old he is, or how long he's been drawing, so I'm thinking there's room to improve. Since I am, like I said, more than passing engaged by weird Western tales, I'm interested in where this is going. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. B+

S:Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Daniel Acuna. (DC, $2.99)

At long last, the finale of this stretched-out series. To sum: I mostly like the re-imaginings of these venerable characters, and the way they interact with each other. I liked how this got tied in (almost like an afterthought) with Seven Soldiers. Wish Graymiotti had brought it in as a six-parter; there were just too damn many cliffhangers and regroupings for my liking. LOVED the Graymiotti version of Uncle Sam, like I've said every single fricking time I've held forth on this series, and believe Acuna's art got better the farther along he went. Next time, assming there will be one, let's hope that J&J rein it in a little bit more. B+

Done! Of course, just in time to get a new comics box today. Sigh. Anyway:

BEST IN SHOW: Nat Turner. A stunning work.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Jonah Hex, although it wasn't really that bad.

Art appreciation time! This is a painting by my immensely talented friend Neli Ouzounova, whose work I'll always post when I get a chance. I recently swapped emails with her, and she sent me this file of one of her works, which is on display at an art show in town. Love the textures and patterns...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Oh my God, MARSHALL ROGERS has passed away.

In the mid to late 70's, you remember, at the tailend of that "garbage decade" you've been reading so much about, a group of artists came up through the ranks that would go on to make a definite mark in the world of American mainstream comics. Mike Golden, Trevor Von Eeden, Craig Russell, Frank Miller, and others. Right up there with those talents was Rogers, whose work I first saw in back-up features in Detective (this was immediately prior to his outstanding stint on Batman in that title, with Steve Englehart and Terry Austin), -Green Arrow stories, unless I'm mistaken- and the one which I recall most vividly was also the first appearance of a character that has gone on to bigger and better things in the DCU: The Calculator. Of course, he had his super-suit with the numerical keypad on his chest, typical silly 70's stuff. But Rogers' style caught my eye- at first, it looked awkward and stiff, and let's face it, it often could be- but it was also witty and cleverly composed, with a Simonsonesque use of onomatopoeia. The main thing about his art was that to this day I can't really spot an influence. Ditko, perhaps, maybe A little Infantino or Neal Adams but nowhere near as graceful or as immediate, I just don't know. Either way, I was intrigued and continued to buy anything I saw his work appear in, including the cover you see above: Amazing World of DC Comics #16, an acquisition on one of my infrequent teenage Nashville trips (to the Great Escape down there, that rarest of rare things in 1978, a comics shop) which depicted a host of Golden Age characters in Rogers' inimitable style. I especially loved the way he drew the Sandman, with an honest-to-goodness functional-looking gas mask.

Eventually, as the Eighties progressed, he did less and less for DC and did a lot of work for Eclipse Comics, including the original run of Coyote in Eclipse Monthly and this:

Rogers' own Cap'n Quick and a Foozle, another Monthly alumnus and a lighthearted and surreal adventure story that was completely charming...but not popular enough to get it published past three issues. I've always considered it the best thing he ever did, Detective notwithstanding.

Not long after the Eclipse stuff, he had another short stint at Marvel (he had done some early Deadly Hands of Kung Fu-type stuff then), one effort being a pretty good run on Doctor Strange, in which he got to exercise his predilection for Ditkoesque dimensional backgrounds.

In recent years, his work has been scarce- there was the depressing attempt to resuscitate his (and Englehart's) Detective glory years, Dark Detective, which showed that he hadn't progressed a bit over the last two decades as far as facility or innovation went, or perhaps he was just making an extra buck...either way, the stale, lifeless art and convoluted, dull script just didn't cut it. But that didn't mean that I wouldn't have checked out anything else he did afterwards, just in case.

Even though he was older than me by about ten years, he was one of those artists that I always thought of as being one of "my generation" of comics artists; it makes me very sad to learn of his passing. RIP, Mr. Rogers.

Here's his Wiki entry; and here's a fan site with a good checklist and timeline, and about a million popups.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Did y'all know about this?

But seriously, folks- I'm working on reviews right now, hope to have most of them posted by tonight. The above image came from one of those free Marvel flyer/promo type things that you see next to the cash register or whatnot, you've probably seen it already. DCBS stuck it in my comics shipment. When I got around to glancing at it, one thing jumped out at me- now, I'm no Dr. Scott, but looking at where the bullet seems to have entered and exited, apparently between the neck and the shoulder blade area- this isn't a fatal injury, now is it? Isn't it a bit too far over to hit a jugular vein, for example? I didn't buy Captain America 25, so I have no idea if this is taken from that comic...but it struck me as a bit odd, y'know.

One other thing I wanted to mention was this- Scott Chantler's excellent Northwest Passage is going to get the annotated deluxe package treatment! Now, ordinarily, the "deluxe package" designation also stands for "Johnny B Can't Afford", but the $19.95 price tag is cheap enough even for I may just add it to the ol' DCBS order when it's solicited. Especially considering that I never got an actual copy of #3; I got a black and white preview that I reviewed it from, and somehow missed the solicitation. C'est la vie- I'm gonna order it from Oni one of these days...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hello, everybody!

I'm not going to apologize, much, for the lack of posting because it's nothing new lately. It's been a very busy week. I have a new job coming up, one which promises to be less stressful (I hope), and I'm also hoping that it means that I won't be as drained in the evening and that will result in more posting! We shall see, I guess.

Anyways, in lieu of any actual comics, movies, TV or music writing, I just thought I'd post a cover and hope that all of you will consider picking this up (I believe it came out this week or last). Now, that said, I probably won't be getting it myself- I still have the original comics that are reprinted in this volume- but I can assure you that this is a smartly written and sharply illustrated set of adaptations of some of the wittiest fantasy fiction ever: Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and the Mouser stories. Pencilled by Mike Mignola just before he grew into his now-familiar Hellboy style, and inked by 50's SF comics icon Al Williamson (at first an odd choice, or so I thought back then, but he adds an interesting sheen to Mignola's work), they do a fine job of bringing Nehwon to life. I suppose it must have been fun for Howard Chaykin, who pencilled several issues of the last attempt to being Lieber's characters to comics (DC's Sword of Sorcery, remember, one of those garbage 70's comics you've heard about lately), and was a great choice because his style on his own projects was as witty and cynical as Lieber could often be in his novels.

Anyway, buy it. I'll have new reviews coming sooner rather than later. By the way, how d'ya like the new feature cover image on the sidebar? Love David Bawidamann's work, but I had gotten kinda tired of that image. Ganked the new one from the always interesting Datajunkie.

Good night!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Better late than never, the BSNCR is the venue by which I take the opportunity, unsolicited, to opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction 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 22 February to 9 March, 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.

100 BULLETS #81
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

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 19 issues. Nice scene in a jazz club with Agent Graves and Dizzy Cordova this time out. Azzarello may do a lot of annoying things with his writing, but he is usually always right on the money when it comes to writing about music, especially Jazz. Maybe he missed his calling. A-

S/A: Various. (TwoMorrows, $6.95)

I can't really give this a fair review yet, because I haven't finished reading the darn thing! It's freaking loaded with text and illustrations, and I can only digest it in short bursts! Anyway, I really wish I could afford to pick up all of TwoMorrows' fine publications, but as with the Comics Journal, I just don't feel like I can afford it. With ordinary single floppy pamphlet comics inching towards that $5 mark, though, I might have to rethink my position. Don't know about the Journal, though- seeing all my Blogosphere acquaintances represented in their august pages, and not me, causes me to experience extreme jealousy. But I digress. Back to the matter at hand, Alter Ego. Ego is a throwback to a time that I can barely remember, when the first nascent stirrings of organized fandom first began to manifest itself through people like Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas and so forth, and grade-school age me was mostly blissfully unaware of this sort of thing (seeing certain names in letter columns kinda gave me a clue, however) until 1973 when I became a regular reader of the late, lamented Monster Times, which gave a fair amount of column space to comics and the people who create them as well as idolize them. A few years later, I met (or re-acquainted myself, it's a long story) Dave Puckett, who did know about, as well as corresponded with, many of the leading lights of what passed for Fandom (with a capital letter) in the early-mid 1970's. He told me about the fanzines that people like Thomas (and others, whose names escape me) created (Thomas' was named Alter Ego, and that's where the title comes from- it's a continuation of sorts) and self-published back in the halcyon days of the early-mid 60's. And short story long, that's exactly what Alter Ego remains: a very backwards-looking cornucopia of all things Golden and Silver Aged, just the sort of thing that everyone loved reading about back in those dim and distant pre-Internet days, when mimeographed sheets led to the Comics Buyers Guide and the Nostalgia nee Comics Journal and so forth. This one's a really Marvel Family-heavy issue, with big articles on the various creators, some well-known and others not-so, and overviews of many of the characters. Judging from some of the back issue covers, I believe this is not exactly a new direction- in fact, unless I'm mistaken it's normal for half the magazine to be given over to the Fawcett Collectors of America. Problem is, not being the world's biggest Marvel Family fan (even though that Jeff Smith revamp is aces) my interest comes and goes, but it's all (or at least as much as I've read, anyway) quite thorough and of course respectfully done. There's also a spotlight feature on Golden Age artist Martin Filchock and the comics company for which he toiled, Centaur Comics, both of which I had never heard of but the generous examples of the content of this company's comics provided are very enjoyable. Not so enjoyable is one of those Photoshop-manipulated photo essays in which someone paints Golden Age heroine's costumes on pictures of 40's and 50's starlets like Greer Garson and Marlene Dietrich; the back cover has a group shot in color. Interesting enough idea, but I've always found these Photoshopped images unsatisfactory and even sometimes grotesque; they rarely, if ever, look natural and call attention away from whatever cleverness might be there by the sheer artifice of it. Oh well- that's a small quibble, and by and large I can recommend this magazine to anyone interested in the often unsung creators and imprints who blazed the trail for the Mark Millars and Michael Turners we have now, for better or worse. Grade, an incomplete A-.

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

Well, this time we start out with an orgy scene that's neither as amusing or as titillating as it probably should be, but at least it does have a point and advances the plot, such as it is, and what it is is Adam continuing his search for his One True Love...and his interaction with his dysfunctional Bakker-esque family and the various satellites he's encountered have piqued my admittedly tenuous interest. After flirting with dropping the book I'm now inclined to hang around for a while and see if Seagle has a resolution or anything in mind, besides continued employment. Becky Cloonan's art still remains the main attraction, although DC seems to be conducting inker tryouts on an issue-by-issue basis- this time out, we get Street Angel's Rugg, and the result is nothing like you'd expect. B+

S: Mark Waid; A: George Perez, Bob Wiacek. (DC, $2.99)

Well, well, what have we here? A comic so old-school, so 1977, so unlike anything that's currently appearing in the rank and file DC titles of today, that at first I thought they must be putting us on, or sending something up. Or both. How in the world did this get past DC Editorial? Oh, yeah, the names in the credit box. DC's second attempt to revive its venerable Batman team-up vehicle since the cancellation of the long-running original works because it has a couple of fellows with respect for the concept and the chops to see it through; I've always thought Waid was a solid scripter with a nice sense of history, and of course Perez has always been able to successfully handle various superhero characters of all sorts in addition to being a solid craftsman with years of experience. This issue, the first of what I'm assuming is a multi-issue opening storyline, has a decent enough mystery at its base: cosmic policeman Green lantern finds a dead body floating in outer space, contacts Batman since he's the detective type, and discovers that Bats has an identical corpse which had just unexpectedly appeared in the Batcave. Waid smartly blends the worlds of the two disparate superguys- of all of Batman's teamups, he would seem to be less suited to interact with DC's cosmic panoply, and that was often borne out back in the halcyon Haneyverse days. But in just the first chapter, we get Batman's milieu, detective work, then abruptly it shifts into patented GL-style sci-fi adventure as the real culprits, a couple of gaming aliens, set some sort of yellow giant creature on the heroes to see who wins first. After this, the trail leads to Las Vegas (it makes sense, trust me), where we get some good character work as both Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan get an opportunity to shine in a well-done casino scene with some amusing dialogue. Waid also takes the opportunity to give us the villainess he created during his JSA run, Roulette, whom I've never really been able to care for because I could never buy her whole setup. Doesn't matter, because she's here in a supporting role only and is played against type. Perez, for his part, still wants to clutter every single panel up with oodles of detail, and it's more of a distraction than it should be- plus, he really needs to update his clothing swipe file when it comes to evening wear in Sin City. But his figures manage to avoid the mannequin stiffness that marred his JLA/Avengers efforts, and he keeps the story moving along at a rapid clip, which is exactly what it needs. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would, which is to say that I expected to not at all, and it's in large part because (to reiterate) the creators respect, rather than seek to appear more clever than, the Maggin/Bates/Wein/Conway/Haney/Aparo/Dillin days of yore and I think that makes all the difference. Sometimes heroes with tragic flaws and events of grave import just become tiresome, if that's all we get. Too much of anything is never a good thing. I hope this lesson isn't lost on the braintrust at National Periodical, because what this opening chapter, slight as it may be, lacks in gravity it makes up in sheer entertainment value. I hadn't planned on becoming a regular buyer, but I definitely think I want to read next issue and go from there. Who knows, maybe I'll even write a letter suggesting team-ups...! B+

S: Wil Pfiefer; A: David and Alvaro Lopez. (DC, $2.99)

The low-key approach of the last few issues gives way to a slightly higher concept, as Selena heads to Metropolis and attempts to steal something from Lex Luthor to get Junior Catwoman Holly's name cleared by DC's resident anti-Oracle, the Calculator. Typically good characterization from Pfiefer, a strength of his since the Finals days, a typically gorgeous cover from Adam Hughes, and improving art from penciller Lopez (inker Lopez's line is always outstanding) equals a comic that more people should be reading, if you ask me, because I honestly can't see how this character could be written any better. A-

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Lee Weeks, Steven Guadiano. (Marvel, 299 cents)

Not necessarily a fill-in issue, since Brubaker's on board, but it feels like one anyway as we get a look at the Matt/Milla relationship that features as much one-hand-against-forehead/one-on-heaving-breast melodrama as I've seen in a Marvel comic since they phased out their romance line in the mid-70's. Necessary from a characterization standpoint (I suppose) if Milla's going to be around for a while, but still kind of a slog. Nice to see a new Romita Sr. cover, too, but the predomination of purple in the coloring was a mistake. Also, the murky, glum interior coloring looks like it was done by someone that is sight-impaired as well. I've seen better from that particular colorist. B-

DMZ 16
S: Brian Wood, A: Riccardo Burchielli. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Y'know, this is a good comic. Smart, topical, and very well illustrated. Just the thing to hand to one of those skeptical people who think that illustrated sequential fiction is all about Spider-Man and Batman. So why can't I think of anything particularly noteworthy to say about it on a monthly basis? I am caught up in the story, have come to buy the premise (which was my biggest hurdle to clear), and while it's never the first book I read when my shipment arrives, it's far from the last. What keeps DMZ, in my opinion the best thing Wood has done since Couscous Express, from being one of "those titles" I look forward to (a sadly ever-shrinking number, for sure) is probably the fact that it is, like other books that I enjoy such as 100 Bullets, Daredevil, Powers, and the late lamented Lucifer, consistently consistent in its consistent quality, and I can't really find anything particularly relevant to complain about or to bestow excessive praise upon, either. That said, a little humor here and there to alleviate all the earnest sincerity might help. B+

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

As satisfying a resolution as one could hope for, no doubt about it. Vaughan has done a great thing here: stripped away a lot of bullshit that other writers have accumulated around this character since the last really good incarnation (I think Englehart, although some could make a case for Roger Stern and Warren Ellis got off to a good start but didn't stay), and gave us a Stephen Strange that we can root for (I loved ass-kicking Strange, going all Count Dante in this issue's big climactic fight) and empathize with, rather than the distant, stuffy token magic guy in the Marvel U. Vaughan did more for the often-misunderstood Wong-Strange relationship than just about anybody has, and also has actually given him a really interesting love interest in the Night Nurse. Will wonders never cease! It will be interesting to see if future Doc Strange stories build from this, or if it will be back to the same old same old when a lesser talent decides he wants to do something with the character. Hopefully, it will be in the cards for Martin to do the character again; his rendition, a throwback to the skinny early-Ditko Doc, was appropriate given the reimagining that was being done, and he has a really nice sense of dramatics and pacing in his layout style, as anyone who bought Batgirl: Year One already knew. A

S: Stuart Moore; A: Ryan Kelly. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

And the truth in advertising award goes to....AiT/PlanetLar! This is indeed an account of Giant Robot Warriors, and the people who put them together- and as is so often the case from the House that Lar Built, it's a fast-paced high-concept action film on paper. First published back in the dim and distant days of 2003, it's being re-presented now partly because (I'm assuming here, only Uncle Lar knows for sure) of artist Kelly's elevated profile these days via Local and other projects, and because the political climate is a tad more conducive to this sort of thing. Plus, it's a quality work, and deserves another chance to find its audience. Moore, who's a better writer than he gets credit for, keeps everything moving along at a brisk clip with some snappy dialogue and a disinclination to stop and ponder all the ramifications of the events. I wish his political satire had a bit sharper edge, but it's acceptable as is and for some twisted reason I liked the depiction of the Bush-like President (who is, of course, not what he seems) as a deranged Clint Eastwood type who stands tall even when missiles are whizzing by his head. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to our real Pres (well, perhaps the deranged part) but this version stands out by its deviation from the standard portrayal. Kelly's art is a lot looser and more cartoonish here than what I'm accustomed to, but it has a vitality and energy that doesn't always manifest itself in his more accomplished current output. The brand spankin' new wraparound cover points out the difference between Kelly then and Kelly now. Its political satire roots keep GRW from becoming another Transformer-esque fanboy wank, and if you're looking for a solid "popcorn GN" you could do much worse than to check this out. B-

S: Mike Carey; A: John Paul Leon. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Now THIS is more like it. I don't know whether this is an inventory script that was put into play to give Andy Diggle more time to get some issues under his belt, but after the mess of the last dozen issues or so it reads like the Second Coming of Alan effing Moore- and the first time we've seen the "real" John Constantine in what seems like years. I had thought Carey's run sorta ran out of steam before it was over, but Carey at his most uninspired was infinitely better than Denise Mina. Also, another big advantage this issue's script has is the outstanding art of John Paul Leon- Leo Manco, this is how to do loose and dark. Boy, do I wish Leon could be the regular artist. Anyway, fill-in or not, this is the best Conjob story I've read in ages and hopefully the beginning of a good run with Diggle and (sigh) Manco. A-

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Joe Abraham. (Boom! Studios, $3.99)

Well, my first inclination (now that I'm reviewing on my own dime) is to say that a lot of this is static and talky, just like bad Aaron Sorkin. However, G & D do manage to work in a number of rapid-fire and amusing quips, and I am still interested in where all this is leading, so I enjoy even as I am annoyed. Abraham, for his part, is beginning to do a curious art-style morph into Jill Thompson, not a bad destination as far as I'm concerned. Kinda telling: I never got #4, and I didn't even notice until I saw where #5 came out. B+

S: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction; A: David Aja, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Russ Heath. (Marvel, $2.99)

Pretty much a status quo plot consolidation and gradual advancement issue, and a low-key and static one at that, as once more Danny Rand deals with the hostile Hydra takeover problem as well as the existence of another Iron Fist wielder, who he seems to be on a collision course with and indeed meets at the end of this very issue, complete with Sterankoesque visuals by Aja, who does a great job on the interiors but gets tripped up with his figure work on covers- ol' IF looks like his waist and hips are at least a foot longer than they should be...and unless he just has a secret yen to draw Plastic Man he needs to work on that a bit. And of course, always a treat to see new art from the great Russ Heath, here represented on one of the flashback sequences. B+

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

I suppose it just must be one of those unwritten rules- eventually nearly every creator has to do a "Mirror, Mirror"-style story, in which everything that we know is WRONG! All topsy-turvy, you know. And this is apparently Grist's. But not to worry- would that all topsy-turvydom be as witty and brilliantly drawn as Mr. Grist's. Too bad about Mr. Bramble, though. A

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

If I didn't know better, I'd say that certain creators are trying their best to resuscitate the dormant Romance comics genre- first the latest Daredevil, and now this, which only needs a Nick Cardy or John Romita Sr. cover depicting ever-dislikeable Megan with one hand held up to her weeping eyes and thinking "This man is everything I could want- but I want to be with HIM!". Nicely illustrated as always by Kelly, but I really wish I could get the gist of what Wood is trying to do with this character in particular and this book as a whole. I thought it was one thing once, but it's morphed into the ongoing Chronicles of Crazy Megan, and it's just not as interesting as it was when it started. Aaah, ta hell with it. Somehow I don't think I'm in the target demographic, which is what I suspect Demo stood for all along, and I guess I just don't geddit. C+

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

I like the plot behind this arc, and as always Oeming's art is top notch, but while this issue was certainly as intense as usual, it's accompanied by convolution...and for the first time since this particular arc started, I'm worried that it's going to devolve into a shambles before it's through. Maybe it's time to wind this one up and move on? B+

S: Darwyn Cooke; A: Cooke, J.Bone. ($2.99)

In which Cooke gives us his version of the Spirit's origin, and does a damn fine job of it- at least as good as the revised version Eisner himself did for the Harvey Spirit #1. And of course the art is first-rate, with another of Cooke's signature two-page spreads and a neat New Frontier-esque sketchy rendering of Denny Colt's pre-Spirit days. I was hoping that Cooke would get in gear after a slow start, and that seems to be what he's doing. Hope this sells well enough to see how far he can take it. A

S: Rick Remender; A: Nick Stakal. (Image, $3.50)

The Girl's Dante's Inferno-inspired trip continues, with a lot of soft-softcore titillation and more recieved tropes about affairs in the Infernal Realm making up the majority of it. Despite being well-drawn-if-sketchy-and-sloppy, this really has nothing going for it at all and it's quite a letdown to recall that I once had high hopes for this title. C-

S: Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton; A: Greg Boychuck. (Boom!, $2.99)

I dunno- this is obviously done with a lot of craft and a modicum of thought, but this turgid mix of giant robots, ultra-violence, and religion just doesn't yank my crank. As I said after reading #1, if I was one of the legion of Warhammer video game players, I might be more favorably disposed, but I'm not, so I'm not. It would probably look pretty good in between Ranxerox and, oh, Barbarella in one of those old issues of Heavy Metal, though. C-

BEST IN SHOW: Doctor Strange: The Oath. Again, great ending to a great mini. Hope for more from that team.

DOGS OF THE WEEK(S): Strange Girl, by virtue of being even slighter than Warhammer 40,000, if you can believe that.

DONE! DONE! Ha ha ha HAAAA...DONE! Whee! Oh. Wait. I got new comics last Friday, so I'm still behind. Thanks for your patience, and hopefully I'll get them up sooner rather than later.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day from "Pat" Lane and the JBS!

Monday, March 12, 2007

RIP Arnold Drake.

It's 10:47 PM CST, and I'm only now sitting down at the computer to check out the 'Net, and I'm greeted with this sad news. Please forgive me, because I'm going to ramble a bit. Now, you all know that as Tegan is with Aquaman, and Mike Sterling is with Swamp Thing, and so on, so am I with Drake creation Super-Hip. Whom Evanier didn't mention. For shame. Anyway, you may be wondering how come I've posted this X-Men cover, of all things, and not yet another Adventures of Bob Hope piece, or even an old Doom Patrol? Well, I'll tell ya.

Above is X-Men #49, cover-dated October 1968, purchased for or by me when I was eight years old. Back then, since all I had was the occasional couple of bucks from my parents a week allowance, it was not uncommon for me to go several months at a time without buying issues of a certain title, even though I may like the title in question. Only so much money, you know. And I liked but didn't love, X-Men, so it had been a few months since I had picked up a copy. I knew what had been going on because I had friends who had some of the prior issues (W.T. Stinson in particular- hey, W.T.!)...and I knew the X-Men had lost Professor X and had split up. The issues immediately preceding this one had the original team engaging in solo or duo efforts, and I guess sales didn't exactly skyrocket because in this very issue, they began to put the band back together again, so to speak, and also began to feature some snazzy Steranko covers (unless I'm mistaken, he did the interiors for #50). OK, here's the point- Mr. Drake was the scripter who had essayed the fragmented X-Men tales, as well as this particular issue, and I distinctly remember being a bit surprised that DC guy Drake was now writing for Marvel. Plus, his writing style, or "voice" if you will, seemed kinda stiff and clumsy, especially considering the established Stan Lee/Roy Thomas style that was so prevalent in those days. I had no idea about the office politics that had led to Drake moving on from National, in those pre-Internet days. Not long after this issue (his last was #54, according to the GCD), Drake moved on to other projects and Thomas came back, joining with Neal Adams to usher in a brief but stellar period on the Mutants that I still maintain was the high point of any X-book I've ever read, and that goes for the Claremont/Byrne stuff, too. Anyway, though his stint on the original X-title has been mostly forgotten, I think, looking back now on it, there was a lot of charm and vitality to those stories, and it's not really Drake's fault that they were overshadowed by what came next.

So that's why I have chosen the above cover to commemorate Mr. Drake's passing; it's an idiosyncratic memory but it's mine all the same.

Besides, I never was much of a fan of those old Doom Patrol stories when I was a kid (don't know why, I read them now and kinda like), and I couldn't find an appropriate page of the faculty and students of Benedict Arnold High School to post either, so there it is.

Rest easy, Mr. Drake.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's four AM and thanks to a combination of restless pets, falling asleep in the living room only to wake an hour later (I have difficulty going back to sleep when I'm awakened abruptly), and two movies on TCM I wanted to see, here I am.

The movies? I Bury the Living, a pretty cool 50's horror flick (with no monsters!) that starred Richard (Paladin, Have Gun Will Travel) Boone as the head of a cemetery committee. In his office at the cemetery, there's a big honkin' map (see pic above) which shows all the plots, and which features a system by which white pins are placed in plots belonging to living people, and black pins are placed in plots that are, shall we say, permanently occupied. By chance, he discovers that by placing a black pin in the plot of a living person, that person soon dies, and vice versa! Needless to say, this becomes a distressing situation, though never fear- it's not quite what it seems. Shot on a modest budget complete with day-for-night scenes, and saddled with a script that you wish was just a little sharper, it nevertheless evokes a nicely morbid mood and is very engrossing. Features Theo (Rance Mohammitz, 200 Motels, later Warner/Reprise artist) Bikel adopting a dreadful approximation of a Scottish brogue as the graveyard's caretaker. Bikel's music has never really been my cup o'tea, but I just think it's cool that he used to be on WBR, and got listed often on those $2 Loss Leaders they used to sell. Anyway, I first saw it back in 1973 or '74 on Channel 4 Nashville's Creature Features, so there's also that nice nostalgia buzz as well.

The second flick was new to me- I'd heard of it, but never had the opportunity to view it before. It says Dead Men Walk was made in 1943, but it looks like it could have been made 15 years earlier- everything looked cheap, creaky and dated...and this gave it a creepy mood that a bigger budget wouldn't have been able to approach. Funny how that works. Walk is pretty much a no-frills horror movie made in the waning days of the 30's horror boom- George Zucco, usually seen as a priest of the Mummy or a mad doctor or whatnot stars as twin brothers, one an upstanding doctor in a small town and the other a Satanist who is killed by his brother (for reasons unknown, it happened before the events of the film) but comes back to life as a vampire and swears vengeance on his twin, as well as his daughter. It pretty much proceeds in tried-and-true Dracula fashion after that, as Evil George, aided by hunchbacked assistant Zolar (Dwight Frye, who died not long after this as made), puts the bite on the daughter and intends to make her his thrall. There's a pretty good synopsis at the IMDb link above, including a mention of the creepy monologue at the beginning of the movie featuring the superimposed, lowlighted face of uncredited Forrest Taylor, which sets a suitably eerie tone. The rest of the movie doesn't quite live up, but it had a certain surreal atmosphere and was well worth viewing, especially if you're, oh, unable to sleep like your humble correspondent!

In other news from hither and yon, I see where Brad Delp, singer for the sporadic 70's group Boston, has died. Much to my surprise, I see where many around the Blogosphere are mourning his passing, but I won't join them. Nothing against Delp, who was a fine person I'm sure, and yes, it's sad that he died...but I could never stand that band's music, so I don't quite have the same attachment that many do. To me, it was always grotesquely slick, intermittently tuneful (yes, even catchy, but that doesn't equate good) edge-free corporate rock (in fact, one of the first of the corporate rock bands) that always served as fuel for numerous rage-filled "X can't get arrested in America or on the charts, but frigging BOSTON and the like are HUGE" diatribes. I saw Boston in 1976, part of a triple bill that also featured Manfred Mann's Earth Band (touring on "Blinded by the Light", and the main reason I was there) and pre-Steve Perry Journey, and I wish I could say that I remember it vividly but I don't, and that's only partly because of casual drug abuse. I wasn't impressed then, and it didn't get any better as that debut album and its followup became ubitiquous on radio and in my friends' record collections. So I'm sorry for the loss of the man, but I'm not inclined to mourn the memory of the group.

Back to TV, I watched two episodes of 30 Rock Thursday evening, because I'd read a lot of positive word of mouth by a lot of people whose opinions I respect. And what did I think? Well, I was disappointed. The humor was a lot broader and more farcical than I expected, often just plain ol' silly as opposed to witty or clever. I will say this, though- Alec Baldwin is indeed very good, often eliciting more chuckles by simply reacting to the insanity than contributing, and the first episode, which featured Nathan Lane as a scam-running long-lost brother, got really good when a booze-swilling and loud-mouthed Molly Shannon, of all people, joined in as one of a group of his siblings. Biggest annoyance was Tracy Morgan's "Tracy Jordan", whose eccentric character is supposed to be "wacky" or "edgy", I suppose, but just struck me as "goofy" and "irritating" and made me want to channel surf until his scenes were over. And honestly, I didn't really find many reasons to empathize, sympathize, relate to, like, or even root for, Tina Fey's Liz Lemon character- who seems to be the center around which the show revolves. Maybe I just didn't screen the right episodes, who knows, but she never seemed to have a consistent stance, an internal logic, in her portrayal- manic, petty one time, warm and approachable another, scatterbrained and silly another, and so on. And this is coming from someone who likes Dirt, where nobody is likeable. Oh well, it was enjoyable enough, and I'll probably watch it again next week, if it airs. I think it's got a hiatus coming up. We'll see.

It's now 5 AM, I'm actually yawning a little, and things seem to have settled down so I think I'll stop now and try to get some shuteye. Good morning to ye.

Cross-posted from the LJ.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Holy crap! Stephen DeStefano, still the definitive Jingle Belle artist for my money (sorry, J.Bone) has a blog! And to no one's surprise, it's full of great sketches and stuff.

And lo and behold, here's the new blog of Cliff (Dr. Thirteen) Chiang!

Now more than ever, I need to revamp my frigging blogroll. Wish I could import my Bloglines blogroll over here. Wish I could afford my own website, and get off the Blogger teat. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Scanning covers and writing reviews now, so hopefully more later.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Beware- post about not posting dead ahead!

Assuming you care, comics reviews are coming. I promise. The day job just leaves me drained mentally at the end of the day, and makes it difficult for me to compose anything that requires effort, and believe it or not, my widdle capsule reviews do extract that particular toll.

When they do finally come, they'll replace this post. Thanks for your patience, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, as far as I'm concerned Captain America "died" thirty years ago. And if you think he's gonna stay dead, I've got some choice back issue comics I'd love to sell you. As I recall, the Robinson Starman got under way by having the Starman at the time shot dead by a sniper. I won't hold my breath expecting this obvious attempt to reboot Cap to approach that level, though.

And this is a hella-sweet cover. Love the expression on Marvel's face. Just the right amount of expressiveness, enabled by Smith's (for lack of a better word) cartoonish style.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

At some point over the last few weeks, MSN posted Robert Christgau's latest Consumer Guide. You can go right here to read it. Not quite sure if I like the new format; it's a lot more difficult to navigate than his old Voice page. But given the choice between this and nothing, it's fine.

One album he reviews is that new Lily Allen, which has provoked my curiousity. I downloaded a couple of cuts, and liked them just fine. Don't know if I'm ready for a whole album's worth of it, though.

Anyway, I hoped to do comics reviews this weekend, but 'twas not to be. Hopefully I'll have them before the week is through. And unfortunately, my LCS didn't have Hero Squared #5. Oh well, I'll get it one of these days...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

This is old news, I know, but I just wanted to express my wish for the recovery and good health of Super-Hip! creator Arnold Drake, who has been battling pneumonia and other illnesses lately.

Legendary Marvel inker Joe Sinnott, too. new Last.FM "recently played tracks" sidebar thingy! I may go the "Personal station" route eventually, but for now this will be it. I've been on Last since December, my profile here (with a picture that makes me look like a real smartass), but am only now beginning to mess around with it. I know, I know, it's too big, but I couldn't get it any smaller in the section where you're supposed to be able to edit the template. I'm sure there's a way, but I don't know what it is yet. Anybody? Bueller?

Doesn't look like it's going to update all that frequently, either. May turn out to be more trouble than it's worth...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Links, anyone?
First, via Datajunkie comes some 50's Science Fiction illustration work from Mad's Don Martin and some late 60's work from Vaughn Bode (Cheech Wizard).

Here's the Joe Kelly interview that everyone else has linked to. Don't buy and couldn't care less about his run on Supergirl, not really feeling the need for positive female superhero role models (although I certainly don't begrudge actual teenage girls any where they can find them- not in this book, for sure), but I liked his work on Justice Leagueand Justice League Elite with Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen.

What's a "Spurtyn Duyvil", you may ask? Get your mind out of the gutter- it was a supernatural beastie that caused a lot of trouble for Cusack the Tuscarora and Doot of the Wawenoc in the second and third issues of Timespirits . Please forgive the self-reference there- info about this series is impossible to find online. I wish I had time to create a really good Timespirits webpage...! Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because Steve Bissette, who has become the go-to guy on the Intarwub for information about the upcoming 'Spirits trade collection, since he's a friend of the creators and will write the introduction, has posted a sketch he did of that monster, and I think you should go see it. Whew, what a sentence.

And speaking of self-reference, here's something I, me, mine did: I lost my scans_daily cherry the other day, posting some pages ganked from John Findlay's Tex Arcana just to see what kind of reaction I'd get. Not much, as it turned out. Le sigh. One person commenting on my LJ icon, and another who observed that the Tex's narrator, the EC-goes-West "Ol' Claim Jumper" (His dyin wuz painful, and he deserved it"), looked like John Astin. That is true, but I guess nobody cares unless it's snarky Batman or manga. Which doesn't mean I won't post something else one of these days, heh heh.

Oh well, that's all I have for now.