Monday, March 31, 2008

RIP JIM MOONEY, who died yesterday according to the obituary pointman, Mark Evanier.

I have to be honest- growing up I was not really a fan of Mooney's work. I didn't especially dislike it, nor did I go out of my way to avoid it, but neither did I seek it out like I did the Adamses and Sterankos from when I started paying close attention to artists' styles. His anatomy was just a little too stiff and his inkline just a little too grubby for my taste. Mooney also just happened to draw a lot of books that I did not buy, mostly Supergirl stories that I would encounter in the odd 80-page Superman comic that I'd pick up. And of course, not really being a big Superman fan, that wasn't often. Also, he did a lot of work on Spider-Man in the 70's, long after I had lost interest in the character. Two exceptions to that, however, were the Robby Reed Dial H for Hero stories that appeared in House of Mystery for a while there- I got more than a few of those, because there was nothing I liked more as a grade-schooler than weird superheroes- and then several years later, when I bought Marvel Spotlight featuring the Son of Satan as a 13-14 year old. On that book, I was more enamored of the oddball scripts that Steve Gerber was writing, and tolerated his art on the first few issues.

But, for this if nothing else, I feel sad at his passing, another longtime veteran of the pen and ink wars that took place in my heart and in my head during my formative years. Here's to ya, Mr. Mooney.
Good morning!

Say, did you know Warren Ellis isn't writing Thunderbolts anymore? Funny thing- I didn't know (or didn't notice) that he had started! That's how much attention I'm paying these days to books I don't already read, sorry to say. I generally like Ellis' work, but I just can't care less about that title so I suppose I'll remain blissfully unaware of how good it may have or may not have been, nor shall I embark on yet another back issue safari. I did, however, enjoy (or at least was held in rapt attention for the duration) reading the Whitechapel message board thread in which Mr. Ellis attempts to explain his reasons for ceasing to toil in that particular vineyard.

Anyways, the real reason I post is not to discuss Thunderbolts, but to direct your attention to the cleverly titled new section in the linkbar at right, titled (for lack of a better one) "Items of Interest". It's just below my sadly incomplete (and still unfinished, I promise) links list, so scroll down. Since I use (and have done so for quite some time now) Google Reader to follow other blogs and websites that I enjoy and/or find interesting, I finally noticed that I could add their "shared items" function here on my blog. So when I see something I want to share, but don't have the time or inclination to make a proper blog post about it, I'll add it to the list, and hopefully it will entertain the living hell out all who care to check it out- and I do hope you will, frequently.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Good for the Shusters, really- anytime the Man gets a poke in the eye it is a great thing. However, before the Chicken Littles of the Blogosphere and beyond get all het up and think this is the End of Superman as We Know Him, they should know this:

Q: Can DC/Time Warner/Warner Brothers appeal the judge's ruling?

A: Yes, if they choose. And the federal appeals court might reverse it, although there's good reason to think it won't be flipped. This isn't over.

Q: What next?

A: More documents prepared and answered; more rulings; possibly a trial; perhaps an appeal. Ditto (except the appeal) in Superboy. The most likely final outcome in both cases: a settlement.

Taken from this, thanks Mike Sterling.

Guess we won't be seeing reprints of Action Comics #1 anytime soon...

In case you're like me and were wondering about Maximortal writer/artist Rick Veitch's take, well here you go! Now we'll wait for Michael Chabon to chime in...

Friday, March 28, 2008

How about a couple of in-between shipments comics reviews?

The first thing I thought of before I read Oni's NORTH WORLD vol. 1 trade was, "Oh, boy- the inevitable Scott Pilgrim imitators have begun". But, as I find so often is the case, I was incorrect in my assumption. Sure, the Pilgrim vibe is there, with its often-sudden juxtaposition of fantasy and real-world scenarios- but after I had finished it, I realized it wasn't so much like Bryan Lee O'Malley's brainchild as it was Grosse Point Blank meets Dungeons and Dragons with Link from the Zelda games in Martin Blank's place. In North World, disaffected young man leaves his small home town and seeks his fortune and fame out in the world as a warrior, one of many who combat the multitudes of supernatural menaces that apparently plague the world they all live in. Other than that, everything's pretty much down-to-earth- but since there be monsters, then there needs to be monster fighters. Anyway, our protagonist Conrad's next assignment is to return to the hometown he left under less-than-ideal circumstances, ostensibly to root out a malevolent resident who plans to summon a world-destroying demon. But Conrad has to face something even more daunting- the girl he left behind is getting married, and has invited him to the wedding! Anyway, he returns, and is reunited with all kinds of people who he knew growing up, including his father (there are issues, of course), a best friend, the girlfriend, and more- and the longer he mingles with and blends in to the small town family values, the more he begins to doubt his "monster fighter for hire" career choice (he had already shown some reservations from the beginning) and wish for the more sedate charms of the settled-down life he left behind.

See? Just like Grosse Point Blank! But derivative as it may be, writer/artist Lars Brown does a good job of making Conrad interesting, if not always likable, and the cast he surrounds him with are varied, not too terribly stereotyped, and keep the weird-assed concept grounded. Brown's art style isn't especially impressive; it tells the story well enough but it's a bit on the crude side; perfectly fine for a webcomic, but if you're gonna kill trees one should hope for better. Anyway, it's good enough. This volume ends rather abruptly, without resolving anything- in fact, the website hasn't even gotten as far as the book, so goodness knows when we'll see the ending, and that's a bit annoying. Still, I'm mildly interested in how it turns out, so I guess I'll try to follow as best I can. North World isn't anything exceptional; it's just like Shoe Shine Boy, it's "humble and lovable". And if you like your Zelda peanut butter in your Blank chocolate, you might enjoy this. B

My patience with superhero highjinks is stretched pretty thin these days, what with the glum, tiresome continuity-heavy ongoing serials both of the Big Two have been foisting on us for two years it seems I'm missing out on a lot of titles that a select few people are talking up, like The Twelve, All-New Atom, and BLUE BEETLE. Finally, after being a bit curious after all the positive word-of-mouth, I ran across that rarest of rare things, an unbroken run of the first 16 issues at my former local comics shop (I can't tell you how many times I've been interested in a recent series, gone there to look for back issues, and found something like issues 1, 4-7, 9 and 12)- so I pounced and bought the first six, figuring that would be a good sampler. Written by the usually always reliable Keith Giffen, or (I think) more accurately plotted by same with John Rogers (I'm guessing) providing dialogue, #1 doesn't exactly get off on the right foot by throwing us right in the deep end, giving us the new Beetle brawling with Guy Gardner, apparently in the aftermath of some big-whoop cosmic battle that was raging in 2006's DC books. Now Dave, I can hear you saying, if only you'd toed the line and bought all those Infinity Crisis/Countdown/52 etc. megawhammy crossover event comics, you'd know what happened! But I regret nothing, so save it. Anyway, Guy is pissed, for no good reason, and we learn that the occupant of this Beetle armor, young Latino Jamie Reyes, doesn't have any idea how to use this armor and the little mechanical scarab that is the facilitator of all this, and gets protetced/saved pretty much by accident. After that's resolved, we see that Giffen and Rogers are pretty much following the standard DC Classic Character Revamp Template; that is, reluctant young average guy acquires Object of Great Power, doesn't know how to use it to its fullest capabilities, and spends a great many pages and our dollars learning as he goes. I think this dates back to James Robinson's Starman, one of the first replacing-outmoded-classic-DC-superhero-with-young-son/daughter/cousin/innocent bystander character overhauls (although I'm sure someone can dig up an earlier example), and still the best of all of them. We meet Jamie's parents, friends, and learn his situation, and of course other DCU characters are interested in who he is and what his intentions are. #4 features an amusing scenario of Oracle, DC's resident omnipresent computer communicator, approaching Jamie and being given a curt dismissal; the Phantom Stranger (as in issues of the Jared Stevens Fate title) also pokes his nose in. Really, this is a tried-and-true method, I suppose; the writers make Jamie and his cast as interesting and as likable as they can, and up the ante by establishing an outsider group of apparently homeless teens with special abilities called "The Posse", obviously missing the member with the special ability to choose a cool name. He discovers, to his dismay, that he has been gone on that mission in space for a year, and much has changed, which also propels the plot forward.

Even though it all sounds a bit...involved..., it goes by pretty quickly, rarely dull. The dialogue sometimes threw me; I found myself rereading pages, trying to ascertain who was addressing who, and Rogers' attempts to replicate the patois often sounded awkward to my ears. Or read awkward to my eyes. Whatever. Bear in mind that I've only read the first half dozen issues, and he may have hit his writing stride by now. I understand that he's taking a leave of absence from the book right now, but I'm nowhere close to that in my reading just yet.

Artwise, beginning with Cully Hamner in the first three out of four issues, and a rotating group after, the art stays really close to that Humberto Ramos (#5's Duncan Rouleau inked Ramos and eventually did all art chores on Impulse if memory serves) kinda-sorta manga style that's so popular with the kids these days. You've seen it everywhere, by a hundred thousand artists working right now. It's certainly dynamic for the most part, especially (unsurprisingly) in the action scenes.

It's probably best to withhold judgment on the series as a whole until I get closer to being caught up- things that bug me now may get resolved six issues later. I am intrigued enough to perhaps go back and get the issues I don't have, or even more likely the second and third trade collections, cheaper in the long run. I'll give this a B+ for now, and I'll revisit when I get caught up to speed.

From Richard Case's sketchblog, here's a nifty illo, pre-color, of Cliff and Jane from Morrison's Doom Patrol. Click to see better. Morrison gets all the attention when people discuss that era of DP, but for my money Case did a great job of depicting all the insanity, especially in the two Brotherhood of Dada arcs, which were the most successful as far as I'm concerned. I don't think anybody drew a better version of Crazy Jane, especially late in his tenure, when he had gotten comfortable and familiar with the characters.

The above is the middle stage; this post shows all three.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coming in June, 180 pages for $18.95, app. $13.25 with the standard DCBS discount.

All I can say is this better be good.
In the interest of maintaining a semi-regular posting schedule, here are a couple of noteworthy deaths, crossposted from the LJ I know few of you read:

Sad to hear, the other day, about the passing of Neil Aspinall. Aspinall was one of those "behind-the-scenes" people who were instrumental in the success of the Beatles; he started out as a roadie, helping them haul equipment and driving them to this gig and that gig, and ended up serving as the head of what the Fabs' Apple became until about a year ago. Aspinall ended up with the keys to the kingdom, and better believe he knew where all the bodies were buried. Yet, unlike about 95% of the friends, families, co-workers and hangers-on of the Four Lads (for better or worse) he resisted the urge to write a tell-all memoir, taking what he knew to the great beyond with him.

Boy, it's been a tough decade for the Beatles (relatively speaking), hasn't it?

Sharks teeth eat Pirahna
On the early morning
The barracuda he no slumber
He never gonna getta warning
Sharks teeth meets Richard Widmark
If you wanna look for trouble
Captian Cook see iron hammer
blowing bloody bubbles
He biting me!!
He got - sharks teeth

"Shark's Teeth", The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, 1975

RIP Richard Widmark, who has passed on at age 91.

To be honest, I never really was as big a fan of his as I was a lot of Hollywood actors from that era. In fact, I probably knew him best for a long time as the fella mentioned in that Alex Harvey song. I always kinda regarded him as a "that guy" kind of actor in films like The Alamo and How the West Was Won, until a few years ago when I caught his memorable portrayal of nutjob killer Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, then not long after in Judgment at Nuremberg- two outstanding, and very different, films. He was old-school character-actor Hollywood at its best. His kind of performer is disappearing fast.

Also, I'm sending condolences to my friend Dave of Elmo's Junction for the death of his father on Monday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Since I can't seem to find the time and/or energy to write anything, and don't particularly feel like chiming in on the latest blogosphere controversies (although this whole marvel_b0y thing is amusing) I think I'll just post some links. I'll probably update them as time permits today, so please check back later, 'kay?

First, the above cartoons, found at Every Day Is Like Wednesday, perfectly illustrate my reaction to most superhero comics, at least the rank-and-file Marvel and DC ones, these days. Funny stuff. Here's the latest in the series, with links to the others.

Also, via J.Bone we are directed to the website of one Arthur De Pins, who does some nicely expressive cartooning in both traditional and digital media. And whose girls look an awful lot like Bone's recent Wonder Woman illos. Hm.

Everyone go bask in the genius of Mike "Steel" Sterling!

More when time permits!

Monday, March 24, 2008

When I don't have anything in the pipeline, I guess one of these "comics I'll be getting come Friday" posts is in order. And this be them:

100 BULLETS #89

Boy, talk about a run-of-the-mill shipment! Which is not to say that I'm not looking forward to reading several of these, like Hellblazer and Iron Fist. But usually there's one or two books that aren't one of my regular pickups in the stack that kinda spice up the order...and this isn't one of those times, I guess. C'est la vie.

I have been reading some other stuff, though, such as the first six issues of the new Blue Beetle- my LCS had them on sale, and for once had a complete run, with no missing issues, up till #16 or so so I might go back if I don't decide to get the trades, and Oni's Northworld. Rest assur-ed that I will opine upon these and many others eventually.

And hey- go here for a preview of the next issue of B.P.R.D.: 1946. It's good stuff.

OH- this just in: I am giving some serious consideration to attending Mid-Ohio Con this year. I mean it. Can any of you give me some advice about where good rooms can be found, and that kind of thing?

Friday, March 21, 2008


It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 7 to 20 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.

ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING #2: Not a bad comic per se, well written and (especially) well drawn (coloring is monotonous and ghastly, though)...but it's simply yet another connecting chapter, all setup- just more dominoes falling and the actual happening is still down the road. It will read better in the collection, I'm sure, with its brotheren and sisteren chapters- but Luddite that I am I'm still buying singles. B+

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #3: Further proof of the old saying "It ain't what you got, it what you do with it". Sure, we've seen the highlights of this mini before, with its Nazi experiments-gone-wrong, creepy-crawly subhuman vampire people, and spooky-pale little girls that are more than they seem- but between Dysart's terse scripting and Azaceta's dramatic art, they're taking the elements and mixing them together with aplomb. A

CASANOVA #12: Well, I'll say this much for Fraction this time out; there's not a whole lot of confusion that can be engendered by simply having your characters blowing each others' brains on the wall, pulling eyes out, and other kinds of mayhem. I appreciate the brevity, but for the first time since I've been trying to absorb all this I found myself wishing for more character stuff, or rather character stuff more explicit than implied. And I still hate that blue. B+

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #6: Neat and efficient finale, with everything getting resolved up to a point and best of all lots of dynamic action art by Eric Canete, the main reason to get this when it comes out in trade in a couple of months. A

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER SPECIAL: Story one sees Darwyn Cooke revisiting his highest-profile project to date, but he puzzlingly (and disappointingly) chooses to recycle the old done-to-death post Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller-style Batman vs. government-directed Superman fight story- nicely drawn but overfamiliar and saddled with an abrupt, credibility-straining resolution. Story two is a muddled nostalgia exercise, drawn in an good approximation of Cooke's style, but it suffers from being upstaged by the late Bob Haney's own "Teen Titans rescue JFK" story from a month or so ago, which was just as far fetched and a hell of a lot livelier. Story three has J. Bone art, always a plus for me even though it's a bit distracting when he insists on drawing Wonder Woman as a distant relative of the Michelin Man. The story itself is silly and heavy-handed, and seems to be trying to alternately celebrate and spoof feminism, which is a tricky balancing act. Further proof that as a writer, Darwyn Cooke is a hell of an artist, and overall, I'd say this is what you can expect from a seemingly done-on-the-quick DVD tie-in. C+

MAINTENANCE VOL.2: Unpretentious and amusing sitcom-style antics, as Manny and Doug, our janitor friends at the evil-scientist research facility, deal with the messes that said evil scientists unwittingly (and wittingly) create. Jim Massey scripts with a light touch, and he's refreshingly unconcerned with seeming hip and edgy. Robbi Rodriguez continues with his expressive art, although sometimes I wish he'd tighten up some of the figure drawings and layouts. I'm not always fond of titles that seem to be written as little more than TV pitches, but even though that doesn't seem to be the case with this, ironically this would seem to be a natural for a network like Sci-Fi or FX- if the likes of Reaper can get greenlighted, you'd think someone would notice this too. Oh well. Maintenance doesn't push comics in any particular direction one way or the other, but it's a fun read and I enjoy getting the trades. A

NORTHLANDERS #4: There's nothing wrong, art-wise, with this title- Gianfelice's work gets better every issue, and in a just world, he will become one of the next great adventure artists. No, my problems are more with the scripting. I get so perplexed by Brian Wood's work sometimes- it's obvious he writes well-thought out scripts for all his projects, from DEMO and Local to DMZ, as well as his earlier (and rawer) Couriers, that feature well-rounded characters and solid dialogue- but there's just something about them that's resolutely and stubbornly ordinary, banal, and down-to-earth, with no spark, no real sense that Wood is enjoying himself or even likes what he's doing (although I'm sure that he certainly does)...and that causes my always-flighty interest to wane. Take this book, for example- Vikings are certainly a novel group to feature, but that's where the novelty ends. The basic conflict, between moody, glum Sven and the people who have taken his money and lands while he's been away, is one which has been done in movies and TV (and even comics, I'm sure) quite often in the past, and so far everything has progressed according to the template. Right now, we're at the stage where Sven's adversaries strike back, and it's sure-enough a horrible retribution, but blunting the impact is the fact that one of the people who died because of his machinations is one that we didn't know anything about until we get a post-decapitation flashback- oh! She's Svennie's girlfriend back home! Damn, that sucks! the only reaction we're left with. I've no doubt that his revenge will be bloody and terrible...and at this stage I'm thinking that the only reason I'm sticking around is because I want to see where this goes after the opening act is done. Despite the unusual setting, so far this has all been pretty much by-the-numbers. I think Wood is capable of much more, and I hope I'm right. B

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #6: To borrow from Carlson, this book gives me a real sense of "cognitive dissonance", but in a good way- Lethem, Rusnak and Dalyrimple constantly turn superhero comics conventions on their heads, seemingly from page to page, and while there is an overriding story going on- the threat of the sentient nanobots that seem to be replacing people- it's all the tangential details and characters, some of which still have much about them that we don't know about at all, that blend together to make this the treat it actually is. It's like looking at one of those old View-Master reels that featured different subjects sometimes. If you like to think as you read, then there's plenty for you in this wonderful take, one which I still can't believe Marvel is publishing. A

POWERS #28: More grim dramatics as this distractingly LONG storyline soldiers on with no end in sight. Guess all I can do, because I am still interested in spite of it all, is plug away right there with it and hope for the best, and given that it's Bendis writing I don't anticipate anything happening that will be "best" for any of them. B+

THE RIDE: DIE VALKYRIE #3: What can I say? Sometimes a guy gets in a mood for shoot 'em ups with nubile young lasses, some dressed like catholic schoolgirls. Strictly action-movie stuff all the way, with fast cars, hissable bad guys, a little of the old ultra-violence, my droogs, and of course amoral Britney-circa-1997 lookalike hitgirl-and-wannabe-nun Lacie to mete out justice. I won't even try to defend why I like this book, but I will point out that it benefits from sleek, dynamic art from Brian Stelfreze and that, I think, makes the difference with me. In lesser hands this would be junk. Well, junkier junk anyway. B

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE PHANTOM STRANGER TP VOL 02: Which collects the last couple of Len Wein/Jim Aparo issues, probably the high point of the history of the character; as well as the post-Wein decline, as the character lapsed back into hosting, and sometimes taking part in (on a superficial level) various horror-comics inventory story ideas, written by Arnold Drake and drawn by the underrated Gerry Talaoc. In all fairness, Drake gave him an adversary, a Doctor Robert-type named Doctor Zorn, who manipulated people (including the Stranger in a memorably silly story) via drugs and hypnotism. Still, the stories always seemed to be about other people besides the lead, and were often dull and far-fetched compared to what Wein and Aparo had done. After a year or so of this approach, readers grew surly and demanded that the Stranger become an active participant in his own comic again, and Drake moved on, replaced by young Paul Levitz- who gave PS an another reoccurring adversary- another Doctor, this one named "Nathan Seine", who was keeping his dying wife alive by leeching the life force from people with help from some Lovecraftian elder gods. When PS foiled his plan, he swore revenge. Also on board was another artist, Fred Carillo, whose work had an inkline that was similar to Talaoc's but slicker and a little more stiff and posed. They even stuck Deadman in a couple of issues, to bicker with and fight beside PS. Of course, all was for naught even though the Stranger proved popular enough to keep popping up here and there for decades after. In a lot of ways, it's the peripheral stuff in this collection that makes it really worthwhile: this includes the Wein-scripted and Dick Dillin-drawn issue of Justice League of America that introduced me to the character in the first place; every chapter of the short-lived Spawn of Frankenstein back feature (which you may remember reading about right here a couple of years ago), not only the Marv Wolfman/Mike Kaluta chapters, but the mostly-crappy Steve Skeates/Bernard Baily ones as well. For some reason, the Black Orchid backfeatures which ran for a half-dozen or so issues weren't included- they were fun but hardly essential; the character didn't really get interesting until Neil Gaiman got ahold of her. A couple of decent but unexceptional (and not by Aparo) Brave and the Bold Batman teamups and two post-cancellation DC Super-Stars (another Deadman guest-spot) and House of Secrets stories round out the collection. I'll tell you, as with the first collection, nostalgia causes me to rate these higher than those who don't share my rose-tinted perspective. The Wein-Aparo issues and the JLA appearance are must-reads, as well as the Kaluta Frankenstein chapters. Everything else is a matter of taste, I suppose, although I personally feel that the later issues, by Drake and Talaoc, were a better read than many of the pre-Wein issues by people like Gerry Conway, Bob Kanigher, and Mike Sekowsky- leaner, tighter, and less disposed to be (in the words, sorta, of Bela Lugosi) "supernatural baloney". To coin a cliche, I like...but your mileage may vary. B+

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One thing that I'm absolutely worn out with, when it comes to comics, is the autobiography "genre", or whatever you want to call it, especially its sister genre "the crudely drawn autobio indie comic". Unless you've had one hell of an interesting life, with many unbelievable encounters and fascinating occupations, I just don't want to know what a chronic masturbator you are or how much of a dick you've been to your boy-or-girl friend or how much of a sexual identity crisis you or you best friend has or how tough it was growing up as a runaway/hooker/oppressed minority, and I especially don't want to know if you illustrate it in a style that looks like you've never bothered to learn the rudiments of drawing, and the delirium tremens are living in your wrists.

However, there are always exceptions to my "I don't care about your messed-up life" mindset, and I'm pleased to report that this new graphic novel from Mike Dawson, FREDDIE & ME, certainly comes under the exceptions to the rule category. It doesn't hurt if you tie it in with a rock group that (at least at first, anyway) had ties with the Glam Rock movement of the early 70's, in this case Queen, specifically its lead singer, frontman, and co-writer Freddie Mercury.

I haven't written too much about Queen here, even when I was writing a lot about music on this blog; my enthusiasm for the group had waned a bit by the early Aughts. However, I do go back quite a ways with the band and its music; the first time I remember hearing them was in early-mid 1974, at the house of a couple of friends of mine, brothers who both ended up fronting rock and roll bands as adults. Their house was the hangout in those days, and a big part of hanging out there was listening to music, which we did indoors on their stereos or outside via cassette and 8-track players. One of them had Queen II, their sophomore effort, and I was absolutely captivated by its flamboyant Led Zep-meets-the Brothers Grimm lyrical slant and adventurous musicianship. Their doctor father, a gruff and garrolous fellow with a deep rumbling voice, remarked upon seeing the cover: "Queen two? Looks like QUEER two to me!", which amused us all no end. It wasn't long until I had my own copy, and I was delighted to see that they released their third, Sheer Heart Attack, only a few months later. By then, I'd done a little research (mostly in CREEM), and was pleased to see that they were aligned with the Glam bands I loved like Mott the Hoople in the waning days of Glitter Rock. After that, "Bohemian Rhapsody" made them superstars, and it seemed like everyone in the circles that I kinda-sorta fit in, i.e. the "popular" cliques, loved 'em- and that always struck me as odd because let's face it, Freddie was as flamboyantly gay, even before he adopted his leather togs and butch haircut in the late 70's, as could be- and while it didn't bother this Bowie/Bolan/Lou Reed fan in the slightest, let's face it: small town Kentucky in the 1970's (and today, too, I suppose) wasn't exactly a bastion of tolerance for alternative lifestyles. It always surprised and amused me how willing everyone was to accept the band and its frontman. Perhaps they regarded him like Liberace. Who knows. Anyway, I eventually lost interest in Queen as each album shifted in sound and focus from the hard rock, fantasy, and Beatlesque pop flourishes to the Mack-produced Eurodisco sound of albums like Hot Space and Some Kind of Magic. Still, once in a while I'd hear a "One Vision", "Flash Gordon", or "Radio Ga Ga" that I liked, and I held out hope that they'd someday get around to making some music that was a little more, well, organic. By 1990, I was working part time at a smalltown radio station with an alternative music leaning, and I decided to helm a Metal show to take advantage of some of the harder sounds that were becoming more popular- the Nirvanas and Chili Peppers and so on. One of the contacts I made as music director of that show was at the newish Hollywood Records, who had just arranged to release all the Queen albums to date on CD. I was delighted to get over half of their catalogue and spent quite some time reacquainting myself with their music, and hearing albums I'd passed on (like 1989's better-than-I-expected The Miracle) initially. Tempering this was the announcement later that Mercury had contracted AIDS, and his subsequent death- a sad end for a great showman. It made me a lot sadder than I expected it to, for sure. Since then, I still get a kick out of digging out those first 6 or 7 albums and listen to them fairly often.

I don't go back with Mike Dawson nearly as far; in fact, other than a couple of emails I don't know him at all. After this memoir, though, I do know a fair amount about him, especially his affection for Queen, which began with a chance viewing of the video for their single "I Want to Break Free", and as is detailed so well in Freddie & Me, it became a lifelong love affair. It's something how all of us develop a bond with a musician or group of same, and I can't think of another example that details this phenomenon better than this. While of course he became a fan of other musicians, his Queen love remained consistent all his life to date. I first became aware of Freddie & Me through Mike's LiveJournal; he had been posting pages from it as far back as 2006, if memory serves. The first scene I saw was a low-key fictionalized conversation between Freddie and guitarist Brian May, late in the former's life- and it was reflective, smart, and downright touching. I wanted to see more, and enjoyed each subsequent chapter that he posted. I soon came to realize that this was going to be more of a personal reminisce, autobiographical in nature, and while I hoped to see more imagined band scenes I soon came to realize that Mike was a pretty interesting dude in his own right, and I was looking forward to reading this when it finally came out. And now, it's going to be available everywhere in May.

Mike lets us into his life with an open, unguarded approach- no masturbation stories, thankfully, but he doesn't hesitate to let himself look foolish when needs must. You never know what people who do these stories leave out, but he seems to be ready to let us know the score when necessary. We see his childhood in England, and subsequent move to the US and the adjustment period that was ongoing throughout, complete with learning to navigate high school and college, and of course those first experiences with girls. We go on to his young adulthood, career, and a particularly moving interlude involving trips back to England and the death of a beloved grandparent. While he doesn't always go on about music, it was certainly a big part of his life, along with drawing, and Fred & Co. are frequently referenced, at least in the background. There are a few of the band scenes included here, but unfortunately the scene which grabbed me at the beginning was cut. He says he might repost it at some later date, I certainly hope so because I'll link you right to it. Dawson employs a loosey-goosey sort of cartoonish style to illustrate the proceedings- his work reminds me a bit of his friend Alex (Box Office Poison) Robinson or a less exaggerated Peter Bagge. His storytelling chops are strong; he moves the story along at a great pace, lays out everything very well, and he is especially strong at blackspotting to enhance mood. His is not a style which is impressive on the surface, but when you look closely, it's deceptively outstanding.

I suppose it's said that the best autobiographical works are those in which the reader can find a bit of themselves therein; that's certainly the case with me as I read Freddie & Me. I'm several years older than Mike, but I can strongly relate to his attraction to the music and image of Queen, similar to what I felt when it came to the Beatles, Nilsson or Bolan to name a few. I enjoyed Freddie & Me as much as anything I've read certainly this year, and probably quite some time before that. It's a very affecting and involving memoir, with strong illustration to match, and I recommend it highly to anyone who has ever sung into a hairbrush in front of a mirror, fist pumped up in the air, as they listened to their favorite band cranked up to ten. A


AMERICAN SPLENDOR SEASON TWO #3: I should be buying this, but I'm not. My loss, I guess. I never bought the first non-DC series either, although I liked the movie quite a bit and have always though Pekar was an interesting fellow by and large. I like this Darwyn Cooke cover, though- reminds me of the TV Honeymooners background for the opening and closing credits.

THE ALL-NEW ATOM #24: A female Chronos, eh? Actually, I kinda like that idea. Now if only they'd work in the J.F. Moore Chronos from the 90's. Here's another book I wish I'd been buying, and just can't face the prospect of buying trades and back issue singles to get caught up.

DIANA PRINCE: WONDER WOMAN VOL. 2 TP: Well, whaddaya know! Here's Vol. 2, and just a couple of months on the heels of Vol. 1! That's good news. I'm not so geeked, though, that this only reprints issues #'s 185-189 of the Sekowsky run, and pads it out with a bunch of peripheral stuff like Brave and the Bold #87 and Lois Lane #93. The Sekowsky era ran through issue 203, as far as I can tell (there were a couple of reprint issues and I'm sure a fill-in or two stuck in there, plus I know because I useta have it that Sekowsky didn't do #202) so does this mean we will be getting a couple more volumes? I sincerely hope so, especially because that aforementioned cool #202, with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, has yet to be reprinted!

FABLES #74: Not much to say about the solicitation copy; I've been expecting the "Empire to strike back", as they put it. I just wanted to post that cover because, at the risk of being redundant, that's an exceptional James Jean illustration.

GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY #9: I like Cliff Chiang's Plastic Man on this one. Do I like it enough to buy? Nah.

HELLBLAZER #245: This one's by Scalped's Jason Aaron; I am beginning to appreciate Mr. Aaron's gifts quite a bit, but I hope he's just a fill-in writer- I want Andy Diggle to stay a lot longer!

I've seen better Mahnke covers, but his Wildcat looks good. Y'know, reading the copy I see where someone has "stolen" Wildcat's fighting ability. This is something which has bugged me since probably the first time I read an issue with Amazo or the exactly are "abilities" stolen? It's not like they're solid, tangible items which can be removed and spirited away. That's comics for ya, I guess. Well, since it's Wildcat, I guess I'll now give the obligatory shout-out to Dorian here, since he's the Wildcat guy. Y'know, I wonder- if Super-Hip ever appeared in anything, would other comics bloggers namecheck me? I wonder about lots of things sometimes.

Hooray, Manhunter's back! And look at that cover by Liam Sharp, who underwhelmed the hell out of me on Testament's interiors! Every time I see this character, I hear that Nelly Furtado song "Maneater" in my head. I think it would make a great theme song for the TV show that will never happen.

Now HERE'S one I've been anticipating for a while now. Amy Hadley 's cover here is gorgeous- one of the best renditions of the character I've ever seen, and that includes Mike Kaluta's. That's high praise coming from me, you know.

I bailed on Local because I simply couldn't stand the lead character anymore. But, here's the same creative team, and boy, this does look an awful lot like Local- but without Megan. So I'm interested. Gee, I wish I was still getting comped by DC, so I could read and review it, and tell all of you what I thought about it, and most importantly not have to put my ten bucks(well, probably $6.50 from DCBS) where my mouth is...

I see where Tim Bradstreet is doing the covers instead of Jock. Too bad, cause I loves me some Jock covers. But hey- I loves me some Bradstreet covers as well, so that's pretty good consolation! Kinda like getting stood up by Jessica Alba but getting to go home with Scarlett Johansen!

This is seeming more and more to me like a book in its death throes (although I bet it will continue until Miller's movie comes out)...but that's a sweet Joe Kubert cover for sure. Nice job by an old master.

TEEN TITANS SPOTIGHT: WONDER GIRL TPB: Can't explain exactly why, but I saw preview pages of this somewhere online and it looked like a fun read- I thought I'd wait for the trade before I decided if I wanted to pick it up. That day has arrived and I must choose!

Who says DC is all gloom and doom these days? This Jason Bone cover is one happy-looking little illustration. Until the pie hits, I guess, but still it made me smile when I saw it. Good show, J!

I received a very nice email yesterday from Gail Simone, in which she let me know that she referred to my trio of posts a couple of years ago on the 70's series Beowulf: Dragon Slayer when doing research for something that she did not elaborate on. After reading the solicit copy for this issue, I think I know now, and wonder of wonders, I believe that DC's Beowulf character is going to appear in this very issue! Talk about an incentive to buy! We will see...


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So I finally broke down and sampled SCALPED, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's ongoing Vertigo series set on a modern-day Native American reservation. I'll tell you up front: it's pretty darn good. It's a no-frills, unflinching, mature-audiences crime drama/action thriller that is informed by, but not completely dependent upon, its setting in order to be effective. The focus is, at first, on young buck Dashiell Bad Horse, born on the "rez", who was sent away by his mom in his early teens in order to get him away from the bad craziness engendered by her activities as part of a group of Native American activists in the mid-late 70's. 15 years later, Dash unexpectedly returns to the South Dakota reservation and begins working as a policeman for Chief Lincoln Red Crow, another former member of the group who has set himself up as king bad-ass of the area, with fingers in a number of unsavory crime-related pies. Having long ago decided to deal with the white man the only way they know how, he is masterminding the opening of an elaborate casino, in hopes of taking the money and turning it into a positive force for hope for the booze-and-drug ridden reservation. However, we find out early on that Dash Bad Horse is really now an FBI agent with a chip on his shoulder, who wants nothing to do with his mother or his former home but is being coerced into infiltrating Red Crow's operation by Special Agent Nitz, who was in on the investigation of federal agent murders committed by Red Crow and Mom Gina's group- while someone was convicted and sent up, Nitz doesn't feel like justice was served and is determined to get everyone involved all those years ago.

Complicated enough? Well, there are other subplots orbiting around, specifically Red Crow's daughter Carol, who is pretty much a drug abusing slut- married, but sleeping around with any number of lowlifes whenever the opportunity presents itself. She and our boy Dash, of course, were attracted to each other as kids but it didn't work out, and now Dash is obsessed with her, to the point of stalking her and beating up on her lowlife acquaintances. Eventually they do hook up, and the ramifications have yet to be explored. There's also Catcher, one of the original group who long ago succumbed to drink and despair but does seem to have the ability to have visions and see auras, enabling the dash of Native American mysticism that Aaron seems to want to be a part of the proceedings- at first reading, it seems to be an uncomfortable fit but the jury's still out and his still behind-the-scenes role has yet to make itself clear. Finally, a young man named Dino Poor Bear, who has been dealt a terrible hand in life, dealing with a deadbeat family including a crack-addled, pregnant wife and baby daughter, a broken down car which he desperately wants to fix, and a group of dumbass loser friends. He did get some unexpected luck from Dash Bad Horse, who caught him working as a gofer for a meth dealer and let him go. He also has a day job working for Red Crow at the new casino, of course, and his is another story which I'm sure will be a big part of wherever this is all going.

One thing I can't help but think as I read these first two collections is how much it reminds me of something you'd see on an HBO ongoing series- the obvious comparison is to The Sopranos, and there is certainly an influence there, but I'm also getting a strong Al Swearengen/Deadwood vibe from Chief Red Crow, who seems to be a ruthless, evil man on the surface but Aaron is working very hard to give him many dimensions and an air of someone who wants to be a difference maker, and acquired cynicism mixed with stubborn pride makes him not so choosy about how he achieves his goals. He's the center of the narrative so far; while the spotlight is on the conflicted and angry young Dash, everything that happens revolves around the machinations of Red Crow. And there are times when, as with David Milch's Swearengen, Aaron brings a Shakespearean gravity to the Chief, especially on up in the series when we begin to see that he realizes what he's become. While he's certainly the most vivid portrayal so far, all of the other players get their chances to make an impression; Dash's mom Gina (whom, it appears, is found dead at the end of the second collection) is as conflicted as her son, and lives with the guilt of what happened in the 70's incident with the Feds, but still harbors a deep hatred for the way her people have been treated. She wants to do the right thing, as much as she can, and in that she's a lot like Red Crow- and there are lots of hints and revelations yet to come, I'm sure, about her role with everyone in the group. One of the most affecting issues was, for me, #10, in which we spend a day with Dino Poor Bear and find out the depth of his situation. Via the Chief, in a surprising and engrossing turn of events, he acquires the means to achieve one of his goals, and his decision breaks your heart. Even though it was a one-shot issue involving a peripheral (at this stage, anyway) character, it was solid drama, one of the best in the run that I've read so far- and that's a really good sign as far as I'm concerned.

Artwise, Guera reminds me of at least a half-dozen different illustrators stylewise, sometimes on the same page, and that's a little distracting. But he manages to blend his influences skillfully, and he does a great job of staging the dramatics that Aaron gives him to depict. I can't say that he has a distinctive style per se, but he does tell the story well and with more panache than the usual run-of-the-mill artist that Vertigo decision-makers seem to favor. It's a grubby, sloppy style, well suited to the often squalid scenarios. The coloring tends to be a bit brighter than the usual dull greens, grays and browns of the Standard Vertigo Color Palette- there are some bright reds, yellows, and greens mixed in- but it still favors the monochromatic and the dark end of the spectrum, and often hinders Guera's already murky linework.

I'm at a big disadvantage when it comes to thinking critically about a work like this, which takes place in a setting and specifically about a people about which I don't know very much at all. I've not encountered too many full-blooded Native Americans, although I've certainly met my share of people who claim to be 1/32 Cherokee or something like that, and use that as an excuse to embrace a lifestyle about which they know very little beyond the most superficial aspects. I don't know if life on a typical reservation is as bleak as Aaron depicts it- a no-hope quagmire of drugs, drink and despair. I've heard that these conditions exist; but I don't know myself for sure. I don't know how much research Aaron did- is he part Native American? Does he have an extensive circle of friends who are and have told him firsthand accounts? Or is he giving us recycled tropes from Hollywood and TV crime drama, using received knowledge of what life is like for Indians on reservations throughout the US? Again, I just don't know. If Aaron is bluffing us, though, he's doing a very good job of it and Scalped feels legitimate.

Another thing I don't know is how well it's selling; the singles seem to be moving in unfortunately low numbers according to the charts I've seen since I became interested. of course, with Vertigo titles that doesn't always mean so much- if the trades sell well, then they tend to give them a longer leash. This all reminds a lot of the situation with The Losers a couple of years ago, a damn good book that nobody seemed to be reading or talking about much back when it could have made a difference, and those who were just couldn't understand why it wasn't more popular. I sincerely hope that Scalped won't share its fate; I think it deserves the audience it's just not getting. It's a down-to-earth, no-nonsense, unflinchingly mature and captivating work of dramatic fiction. It's not lighthearted or full of uplifting adventures. He's not reinventing the wheel, it's not particularly innovative, but he seems to have done his homework and the characters are all interesting. Perhaps it's just too grown-up for those who have to have their Wolverines and Batmans in everything they read, who knows. The likes of Garth Ennis and others have been singing its praises and encouraging people to, among other things, "blog about it"...and so here you are. I've blogged about it, and if you've been on the fence, I strongly encourage you to at least pick up the first trade.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day, all ye lads and lasses.

It was a hectic weekend, so no time for blog, Dr. Jones. Please bear with.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ima get new commeeks today, I hopes.

These be:

THE RIDE: DIE VALKYRIE #3 (Remember this? Probably not. I barely do, it's been so long)



JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER SPECIAL (I've read so many reviews already that I feel like I've read this already)


OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #6 (Jog wrote a great review of this one the other day)

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE PHANTOM STRANGER TP VOL 02 (AKA back to my teenage years...again) ETA: When I got this this afternnon, I was surprised and delighted to see almost every backup story that appeared in these comics, with one exception. I was especially happy to see the Steve Skeates/Bernard Baily Spawn of Frankenstein stories that I don't own in singles format anymore. They're still pretty bad, but it was fun to reread them. For some reason, they didn't include the handful of Black Orchid stories that saw print in PS for a while there- guess she didn't fit in with the other, more traditional horror-style content.

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #6 (Grande finale of a mini which I've loved, but I don't think too many others have even read)


B.P.R.D.: 1946 #3 (Sims knows the score on this one)

I also received yet another fat envelope full of indie books from Microcosm publishing, god love 'em, stuff I would never buy on my own but fear not, as I did last time I'll try to cover a couple; and I also received some good (and a couple of not-so-good, but in all fairness I only read #1) stuff from Oni. Scalped is gonna get its own spotlight review. Hopefully all this will be up by the middle of next week.

Three posts in one day! Whew!
I've been reading a couple of interesting webcomics lately, and I thought I'd write a word or two about them. Neither are, I'm sure, particularly new to those in the know, but you never know, so whaddaya know, y'know?

Here's BRAT-HALLA, by Jeffrey Stevenson, Seth Damoose (relation of Mister Damoose, I wonder?), and Anthony Lee. The concept is the adventures of the Norse Gods when they were young and if their parents were living a modern-day suburban-type lifestyle. I haven't gone very far back in the archives yet- the darn thing's been appearing since 2003, completely under my radar- but the year or so I have read has been fun. It's an enjoyable, often clever read and I find myself really liking the Damoose' art- it's a loosey-goosey blend of Mark Badger, Darwyn Cooke, and dare I say I see a little John Byrne in there as well? It's very expressive and appealing. Click on the above link to go back as far as August 2006, and here's an archive of earlier strips.

The other one, on the other hand, is quite familiar, I'm sure, to all of you (unless you've been vacationing in Aborigine country or something): Warren Ellis' FREAKANGELS. The best way I can think of to describe it is The Midwich Cuckoos all grown up and devoted to the Coilhouse aesthetic. Unlike many of Ellis' recent projects, it doesn't come across as extrapolations on the notes he makes while perusing Metafilter, Boing Boing and Slashdot, and the situation and characters he's set up early on are interesting. His art collaborator Paul Duffield's art is fine; a little sketchy and too much on the inked-in-Photoshop side but it tells the story efficiently, and he's good enough with PS to flesh it out more in the final stages.
More Nilsson stuff has popped up over the last couple of days- first, For The Love of Harry provides scans of a new feature article in MOJO magazine, a recap of his frustrating and heartbreaking career. They've also put up a ton of HN-related Rolling Stone articles as well...and of course, there's that invaluable service they provide which shall go unnamed here but will be immediately obvious if you look around the site for any length of time.

MOJO, one of the best music mags I've ever read (and one which I would still subscribe to if the damned thing didn't cost a fortune), also helpfully collects a bunch of HN video on this page, interesting viewing, and finally, here's an oddity: a MySpace page for Count Downe, Harry's vampiric alter ego in the 1974 film he made with Ringo, Son of Dracula.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I first became aware of this when I saw a brief Warren Ellis post that broke the news but couldn't say for sure, and when I looked around on his website and Wikipedia, nothing was mentioned about it so I dismissed it...but now it appears to be official, as Mark Evanier and CBR have verified: the great DAVE STEVENS has passed away. Another tragic loss.

Of course, Dave was renowned for his retro-styled pinup art, at which he had few peers, and especially for his Bettie Page work. For me, though, it will always be for the Rocketeer, which came along in the early '80s at a time when I, at age 21 and facing young adulthood, had become disenchanted with the blandly illustrated perpetual long underwear fighting and melodramatic hand-wringing of Marvel and DC's output at the time...and was considering dropping my longtime comics reading habit. But comics from a new group of publishers- stuff like Flaming Carrot, Zot!, Aztec Ace, Love and Rockets, and even an oddball title from DC called Thriller re-energized my interest, and among the first and best of this bunch was Dave's Rocketeer- a stylish and superbly illustrated Pulp adventure pastiche that blew me away in a fashion that I hadn't experienced since Kaluta stopped doing The Shadow. It was simply breathtaking how retro, yet fresh, it was and even though the title kept jumping around from publisher to publisher, I never missed an issue. For a while, that was my ambition- to be able to draw, especially women, as well as Stevens did. I wanted my work to look like that so much it was ridiculous.

I had wondered what had become of him over the last couple of decades; he used to contribute covers and whatnot to various publications but hadn't seen any in a long time, and of course the Rocketeer had seemed to lose its momentum after the not-bad but disappointing box-office-wise film version. I had assumed he had moved on to other formats for his talents; commissioned paintings, that sort of thing. Apparently he's been seriously ill for a while and that accounts for a lot of his lowered profile.

Anyway, RIP, Mr. Stevens, and thanks.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'd be floored if you haven't already read about this on a hundred other blogs, but just in case you accidentally missed it, Dark Horse has announced plans to reprint the exploits of the Little Fat Nothing himself- HERBIE. Retailers everywhere will be asked to "make way" for the Fat Fury this Summer, if all goes according to plan.

This is great news because these are some seriously weird little comics stories, and it's a crime that they haven't been more accessible to a wide audience, no pun intended. Remember that "straightfaced absurdity" and "whimsy" I'm always going on about in regards to Street Angel, Scurvy Dogs, and Flaming Carrot? Well, here's a big part of the direct inspiration, at least in the comics medium, for all that sort of thing. Now, I know you all will find this hard to believe (since we all know I'm older than God), but I have never personally owned a single issue of Forbidden Worlds or Herbie, nor have I ever possessed a copy of any of the rare reprints that have come and gone over the last four decades. But my Pal Dave has had many copies (hell, I'd bet he's had complete sets at one point or another) and has let me read them whenever I did so desire, so I know whereof I speak. I've also read them online and have seen them in comics shops.

Anyway, like Tom, I have reservations about the format- you know me, Mr. Cheapskate. No way I can drop 50 bills on this thing, but perhaps next Christmas I can get a good price via Amazon or the eBay. Also, there's something that's just a little off to me about seeing these stories reproduced on nice, white stock; I suppose this comes from a lifetime of reading them on yellowed paper in coverless and beat-up copies. Me, I'd prefer a more affordable softcover and could live with the better paper.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 16 February to 6 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.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #10: Cotton candy comics, tasty but not always satisfying. Lotsa people in supersuits, running and jumping and shouting and gesturing and punching and flying and so on and so forth, all in service of a plot which strives to achieve two goals- one, replicate the skewed logic of a thousand and one Gardner Fox Justice League free-for-alls, and two, give appropriate screentime to a large number of corporate properties that are meaningful to aging fanboys who are just happy to see the "real" Challengers of the Unknown- i.e., purple speedsuited Ace, Red, Rocky, Prof and June, with very little in the way of personality to get in the way of all the running, shouting, etc., or the "proper", Kanigher/Andru-era Metal Men make an appearance, no matter how superficial and shallow the actual appearance is. "Servicing the fans" is the term, I believe. Waid wisely paces it all so fast that it goes down smoothly, but after a while the discerning reader begins to want a bit more sustenance than cotton candy can provide, and therein lies the problem. B-

CATWOMAN #76: I knew it was coming, but that didn't help; I just don't like "Mirror. Mirror" type stories, they're pointless by and large and don't really matter in the overall scheme of things. I've griped enough about how I wish they'd leave Pfiefer to his own devices and keep Catwoman out of whatever multimega crossover event DC has going on at the time, so all I'll say is that this is well done and los compaƱeros Lopez deliver another satisfying art job, and let it go at that. B+

CRIMINAL 2 #1: Instead of six-issue arcs, this time we get a self-contained one-issue story about two childhood friends grown up and gone sour, and it's as well-fleshed-out and satisfyingly written as it is (above all else) beholden to Noir film tropes. Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of Noir films or books; as a whole I've always found them, and their emphasis on hard-bitten private dicks, hookers and tough gals with hearts-of-gold, and down-on-their-luck ordinary joes in the seedy dives and misty back alleys of the big, heartless city to be rather one-dimensional and monochromatic in scope. But Brubaker and (especially) Phillips are able to push the edges, just a bit, of this very narrow and confining box- and are holding my interest. So yeah, what we have here is another outstanding issue, and fans of this series will not be disappointed. A-

DAREDEVIL #105: Jesus H. Christ, if I wanted to read about the adventures of Job, I'd go grab a bible. I'm not ready to bail on this increasingly bleak comic book, but I sure am glancing at the side of the boat a lot more often. B+

FABLES #70: Another of those in-between epic stories, in which some of the loose ends from previous storylines are addressed, specifically Boy Blue's crush on Rose Red as well as the offer of sanctuary for all the non-humanoid Fable characters (anthromorphs, dishes, spoons, etc.) in Flycatcher's new kingdom in the Homelands, instead of the enforced captivity they live under in the Preserve which was built for them in "our" world. Also, some more preparations are made for the next campaign against the Adversary. It's hard to really review issues like this; it's as well-written as previos issues have been, more of the same for those who are in the know. Can't imagine how someone new to this series would react after reading this, but then again I would imagine that the curious (well, the smarter ones) are buying the trades first anyway. Only new wrinkle this time out is the guest art by one Niko Henrickson, and it's not particularly impressive, but it has its moments. Par for the course for art on this book, you bet. Anyway, for them what likes, here be more. B+

HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER #3: Another solid chapter in a story that, I'm sure, will read better collected than it does in shortish pieces. Best interlude this time, for me anyway, was the chit-chat between Mo Kalama and suave scarfaced Antonio from Last Resort; it had some nice, nuanced dialogue going on. The last page reveal, while not much of a cliffhanger, was effectively presented as well by Scott Chantler, who continues to struggle to rein in his tendency towards cartoonish exaggeration throughout. Doesn't bother me at all on his outstanding Northwest Passage, but here it's not always a good fit. B+

HELLBLAZER #241: In this, the latest issue of the best Conjob arc in a heck of a long time, Johnny pulls a trick that has to rank right up there among his best. At the risk of being repetitive, I'm loving what Diggle is bringing to this character. And what he's bringing is so sharp and smart that I've stopped being distracted by Manco's art, something which never happened while, say, Denise Mina was scripting. A

IMMORTAL IRON FIST: ORSON RANDALL- THE GREEN MIST OF DEATH: Let's face it- the previous holder of the Iron Fist mantle, Orson Randall, a big whiteboy lug, just isn't all that interesting on the face of it. But- and this is a big but- Matt Fraction seems to realize this as well, and has surrounded his character with a kaliedoscope of characters and situations, all deeply steeped in the 1930's and 1940's Pulp aesthetic, and combined with the sort of clear, lucid, sharp writing that I dearly wish he'd bring to Casanova, really delivers the goods in tandem with a number of talented artists. Best of these is the turn by the least heralded of the group, Lewis LaRosa, who draws the third of four parts- and combined with typically sloppy Steven Gaudiano inks and the Standard Vertigo Comics Color Palette™ (on loan from Lee Loughridge) in a cinematic fashion, reminding me a little of the late lamented Gotham Central. The final chapter also looks nice, despite a scratchy inkjob that evokes Tony DeZuniga circa 1975. Chalk up another winner for the Iron Fist line! A-

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: METAMORPHO: I'm not sure the term "insane" is adequate to describe many of these stories; a new adjective should be created, and fast. This is probably the high point of Bob Haney's comics writing career. Wisely, he set these tales in a world which only tangentially resembled the one we live in- it's a world where any leap of logic, no matter how extreme or convoluted, can be explained; where any sort of mechanical device can be put to any task, no matter how far-fetched; it's as pliable and malleable as its protagonist. It's not surprising to me that Metamorpho has rarely worked when he was shoehorned into the DCU, where there are rules of sorts. A really good example of that is the last story in this collection, a Justice League story in which Morphy was considered for membership, and when taken out of the Haneyworld and placed in Gardner Fox's episodically structured (albeit equally illogical) story, the whole thing collapses under its own goofy weight and becomes almost unreadable. Anyway, contained herein is rex Mason's first two appearances in Brave and the Bold, along with his own title, 17 issues worth of prime 1960's DC- fast-paced and laced with that unique Haney-slang, and while it may be wearing if you try to sit and read these all at once, reading them one or two issues at a time is a lot of fun. The early issues with Ramona Fradon art work the best; her deft cartooning touch gooses the breathless scripts along. After Fradon moved on, Joe Orlando and later Sal Trapani, with Charles Paris on inks, gamely try to reproduce Fradon's style to diminishing effect. There's a freewheeling, inexplicable globe-hopping superspy-movie kind of vibe about many of the early issues as well, a result of the James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. mania rampant at the time, I suppose. About a dozen issues in, Urania Blackwell, the Element Girl, is introduced- why, I can't say, except perhaps to give Morphy's crush Sapphire Stagg some competition and perhaps address the lunacy of a normal human woman attempting to make love to someone who is made up of various elemental components rather than human flesh. The final issue, #17, is drawn by Jack Sparling, and his grubby style is quite jarring compared to the relatively sleek work that preceded it; it ends abruptly on a bit of a cliffhanger, with the title character inviting readers to return for a next issue that never came. Finally, this is rounded out by the aforementioned issue of Justice Leagie of America, and two Brave and the Bolds: a meh teamup with the Metal Men, and the notorious first teamup with Batman, a camp-era classic of its kind in which the Caped Crusader is transformed into a squat brutish shapeshifter due to the machinations of the Penguin, Joker and Riddler. It has to be read to be believed. I suppose that's the best way to describe practically every story in this collection. If you're attuned to the Haney wavelength, this is essential reading. If not, buyer beware. B-

WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #14: A little disappointing, but not bad- the story is perhaps a bit too broad and farcical, but often when Eisner did the same thing, he had the same tendencies. I liked the characterization of the Spirit and Ebony just fine, Dolan and his daughter Ellen less so. Mike Ploog's art is inconsistent- I liked the obligatory page two logo treatment, and the layout and pacing were solid. But there's an annoying, clumsy cartoonishness to his figures that I don't remember being there there all those years ago when everyone thought he might turn out to be Eisner's heir apparent, and it's often really distracting; he looks more like Berni Wrightson's former assistant. So...could be better, could have been worse- kinda like Cooke's run, now that you mention it. B-

Also read and coming soon in a separate review: Mike Dawson's FREDDIE AND ME, an early contender for my best of 2008 list, Oni's MAINTENANCE Vol. 2, SCALPED of course, and more.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ah, somewhere Foster Brooks and Dean Martin are chuckling to themselves. Alcoholic humor NEVER goes out of style! That aside, this is a nicely done illustration by Darwyn Cooke, and I'm sure the mag is stuffed with fascinating reading...but the days when I could afford to add TwoMorrows magazines to my monthly order are long gone. Ditto the Comics Journal.

Anyway, managed to stop coughing and generally feeling rotten (while at the night job, yet) long enough to make out my DCBS order for books scheduled to ship in May. And just in case you care, it goes something like this:

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #5
UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE TP (Hey, I've read a lot of good word about this, even though it sounds kinda precious.)
100 BULLETS #91
NUMBER OF THE BEAST #3 (Chris Sprouse!)
NUMBER OF THE BEAST #4 (Chris Sprouse!)

Way to present your junk there, Ozzy!

Every comics blogger in the world, and on a few other planets as well probably, will be linking to these advance pics from the upcoming Watchmen film, so why should I be any different- especially since I'm trying to maintain a semi-regular posting schedule around here. I like Rorshach's, but that's mostly because he's not wearing a Batman and Robin-style plastic-looking monstrosity suit. The Comedian isn't bad, either, mostly (again) because of the lack of rubber. Oh well, we will see what we will see.

Comics reviews coming soon- as soon as work and illness will permit.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hey Mike Sterling!

Found at the blog patchoforange, whose pseudonymous author is an animation artist (or so I surmise anyway), is this pic of Swamp Thing, part of a set of stylized renditions of DC heroes, done for a quote unquote "pitch" for a series called "The Mighties".

Here's the pertinent link, go check it out. The Batman illo is neat, too.