Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old, ring in the new.

Yeah, it's a repeat from last year, but the sentiment is the same. Wishing everyone one of those happy new years I'm hearing so much about lately.

OK, here's something I haven't posted before- a video of the Flaming Lips performing "Auld Lang Syne". You'll need to overlook the idiot comments from the crowd, but this is kinda neat, I thought.

Found via Bedazzled.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Here we go again with CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write shortish 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 December 7th trough the 27th, 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 #98: 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 continue to cut and paste this review for the next 2 issues. A-

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #5: Perhaps this would have been better served as a Xeroxed mini-comic, passed around among DC staffers, because this tedious, unfunny series is one long in-joke at the expense of the paper pushers at DC, not to mention the poor readers who have bought in, wishing to see what was thought of as clever and funny back in the late 80's and early 90's, rambling on and on and on and on about things that the average comics fan and the presumed audience (cynical comics readers being a minority still, I think) doesn't know about, doesn't want to know about, or more importantly care about. Amusing: Didio on the Source Wall. They do nothing with it. A waste of the talent involved, and oh yeah, our money. The only way this can be redeemed is if Bob Fleming gets more DC work because of it. C-

THE BOYS #25: Ennis continues his pisstake on the X-Men, with Hughie undercover; some genuine laughs are interspersed among the sophomoric hijinks, including one of the most organized circle jerks I've ever seen. Still, the most compelling plotline is the one in which Mother's Milk is doing some detective work, with some good character stuff involving a townie deputy sheriff. For those that likes, here's more. B+

For all you kiddies out there who dote on Twilight and its ilk, not to mention the would-be auteurs who seek to profit by the peddling of same, you should pay attention- this is how to transcend genre cliches and craft a believable and dramatically valid tale from vampire-story cliches. Of course, Ted Naifeh's been doing the Goth thing for a long time now, and he's had the insight to distill it down to what is working and what isn't, both script and art-wise. Even though a tiny part of me was hoping that becoming vampirized might make Courtney's nose grow out a little, this was an absorbing page turner all the way through and it's a pleasure to see how assured and graceful Naifeh's art is these days. If I hadn't already done my Best of 2008 list, this would be on it for sure. I may go back and add it. A+

What? You didn't think this was going to turn out for the best, did you? You must not be one who watches/reads/lives noir tropes. Yeah, I know it's not the knowing of the certain eventual downbeat outcome, but how it all takes place...and it's as engrossing as Brubaker and Phillips at their best can make it when they're in a groove. Next up: Incognito. A

When I first saw this, I thought "Now here's what it would look like if Peter Bagge decided to do a Pirates of the Caribbean adventure series", and expected something arch a la the Disney blockbuster trilogy. But, instead of playing this for laughs, artist/writer Chris Schweizer is dead serious- and the cartoonish art and straightfaced swashbuckling creates an odd sort of frission that makes it work, at least for me- which is not to say that this rivals Scalped in the grimness department; there is some humor in the mix, thank God, and it's integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Even more intriguing is the possible direction he brings up in the inside jacket covers, a gallery of the modern-day Crogan's ancestors, all of which seem to be a varied and interesting lot. Me, I hope he gets the chance to elaborate on this tableau. For open-minded pirate story fans, and lovers of comic book adventure everywhere. A

Reviewed at B+

EL DIABLO #4: This miniseries keeps chugging right along, and while it's trying very hard it never rises above the sort of thing we expect to see from comics starring the Ghost Rider or the Spectre. I like the art very much, although the communication between writer and penciler sometimes breaks down and leaves out little details we need to process what's happening, especially during fight/action scenes. Maybe Hester and Parks should be working with Grant Morrison. C+

FABLES #79: Things just keep on getting worse for our friends in Fabletown, as they get evicted supernaturally from their spacious Mundy city skyscraper, as well as lose most of their magic talismans talismen objects of power. Sure doesn't seem like good times are coming, as the other shoe I was concerned about a while back seems to be falling pretty fast and hard. If you've been following thus far, know that this is equal to the level that Willingham and Buckingham have established. If you're curious, you might want to pick up a trade collection first. If I ever meet Willingham, I am going to smack him upside the head for killing Fafhrd and the Mouser. Only kidding. Sorta. A-

Well, at least this wasn't dull! Even though its rapid-fire, almost strobe-ish method of depicting so many events at once keeps this lively, it also fosters incoherence, even though once in a while some sort of linear storyline peeks out timidly to help us figure out what the hell is going on. Its full of impressive moments, but we're never really given much of a chance to linger on them. Me, I suspect the age-old too many cooks problem; there's just too much disconnect to be blamed on Morrison alone. It's a shame, but be this as it may I'm still very interested in where this is going. Nice job by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino of making their art blend in with J.G. Jones; you can still tell the difference when you look closely but I shudder to think how this would read in the hands of lesser talents. Still hoping that this can be brought home in smashing form, but my faith is wavering. B+

FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #4: The Question, Rucka's Angel Lady whose name escapes me, and the Spectre versus a transformed Vandal Savage and some possessed hordes straight outta Prince of Darkness. It's all kinda overwrought and a tad pretentious, but at least we find out how all this ties into the Final Crisis series proper so that's a plus. The Tan and Glapion art works OK, I suppose, but what with Tom Mandrake wasting his time on Wildstorm TV spinoffs, I have to wonder why they didn't get him to draw this, instead of two imitators. Not only unnecessary, but not very cost-effective! C+

HELLBLAZER #250: As holiday-themed anniversary issues go, this works well enough as we get a group of writers and artists who have worked on the character before, as well as a few who have never done so, which makes me wonder if we're not seeing tryouts.Regardless, I enjoyed every story in this collection, some more than others of course. Always great to see Sean Phillips draw John again, even in service of a fairly standard story by Dave Gibbons with its 2008-trying-to-murder-2009 imagery; nice twist in the poker story by Alan Moore successor Jamie Delano, with solid David Lloyd art, and the only tale of the bunch that really evokes Christmas; Chicago native Brian Azzarello has Conjob take on the goat curse that keeps the Chicago Cubs out of the World Series, probably the most different Constantine story I've read in a good long while. Art is by one Rafael Grampa, whose oddly distorted style (reminiscent of Paul Pope crossed with the detail of Geoff Darrow) brings the grisly tale to life even as it is hard to figure out what's going on sometimes; upcoming writer Pete Milligan gives us a fairly routine tale of a sort of corruption in high places in tandem with artist Eddie Campbell, good as usual but his John looks disconcertingly like William H. Macy; and a whole bunch of new-to-me people close the book with an unusual story about supernatural fallout from a lab accident; the ending is somewhat memorable. It's a mixed bag, but the quality is high and with a new writer coming on board just might be one of those legendary "good jumping-on points" you hear so much about if you've been meaning to pick up an issue and see what it's all about. A-

When I ran down my comics shipment the other day, I recall hoping that this one didn't lapse into incoherence like the previous Hellboy opus, Darkness Calls, did. I'm pleased to repost that my fears were groundless; this is a very good start to the story, with a dynamite ending that leaves me wondering what will happen next, even as my longtime puzzlement over exactly how much punishment Hellboy, still a flesh and blood being, can take remains unresolved. For my money, artist Duncan Fregredo is on a par with Mignola when it comes to sheer artistic chops, so it's always a good thing to see his art grace these pages. A

A little less dithering about this time, and a little more "what's going on here" as we get not only a few concrete revelations, but an appearance by Abel of the House of Secrets (I had begun to wonder what had happened to him and his brother) as well. I enjoyed this one well enough, even though I'm beginning to think that this is going to affect me the same way its predecessor The Dreaming (which covered the exact same ground) did, and I'll get bored by issue #20. B

LOCAL HC: I bought this faithfully for nine issues, but eventually stopped, brought short by the desire to cut back on my new purchases and also my dislike for this series' highly dislikable lead Megan. That said, I kept thinking that I would perhaps spring for the trade, just to see where Brian Wood took this, but the fine folks at Oni saw fit to take care of this for me, and sent me this gorgeously packaged collection. Seems like while I was gone, Wood mellowed our Megan a bit, made her less of the type that would date me under false names, for example, and took her to a destination which is often a favorite of writers who perhaps yearn for a more rustic lifestyle. Oh well, the grass is always greener, or so the saying goes. I must say that I enjoyed Local more in one sitting than I did in semimonthly installments; it all hangs together better in one uninterrupted flow. Of course, really the biggest reason to invest in this title is artist Ryan Kelly, who, with this work, will no longer be thought of as just a good inker; he excels throughout at not only the details of the various locales each chapter takes place in, but the more down-to-earth dramatics as well. Glad I got caught up. Edited: I made an assumption about Mr. Wood's background which was totally incorrect, so I made an edit which may be only a little less assumptive but a bit more general in nature. Apologies. A-

MANHUNTER #37: In which we fast forward several years, to when young superpowered son Ramsey is trying to get in on the superhero game, much to the annoyance of Mom. I guess if you're playing out the string, as Andreyko is with this title, there are worse things you can do, especially when you throw in a pretty good cliffhanger ending. Let's hope Kate goes out in a blaze of glory. A-

PHONOGRAM 2: THE SINGLES CLUB #1: I bought and read the first series in one sitting, after purchasing the back issues on the eBay; I meant to review them but just never really came up with anything particularly interesting to say about it. I found the story a bit too calculated and obtuse, although it did hold my attention, and McKelvie's art just looked stiff and lifeless, aspiring to a sort of Patrick Nagel look but lacking any illusion of motion or life. And now, here we have the continuation, and while the story is a lot simpler, when your most gripping scene involves a club DJ chewing out our bright-eyed phonomancer lead for using her abilities to influence his song selection, well, all I can say is that I hope you have something else up your sleeve before it's over. Mr. McKelvie, for his part, has gotten better, at least at balancing his darks and lights- his figures still resemble wax mannequins. The color this time out helps a lot, and he seems to have gotten a bit more supple with his ink line. At first glance, you'd think that I, Mr. Music Head, would be the ideal audience for this title- and I do like the idea of people able to use magic as made manifest by music. Problem is, Mr. Gillen's music scene is not one which I was especially fond of; while I've heard and/or heard of (and even liked a couple of) many of the bands he's constantly referencing, they don't really have the resonance with me that I think they're supposed to. I'm interested enough in the concept to see where they take it, but I'm holding out hope that it will go in a more lively direction. Oh, and lest I forget, we get two back features as well, designed to compliment and amplify Gillen's concepts; the first, drawn by the always-good-to-see Laurenn McCubbin, is a thinly-disguised piece of musicrit and the second is a cutesy interlude with the aforementioned DJ, drawn in a style that reminds me a little of Alex Robinson by Marc Ellerby. B

THE REMNANT #1: As I read this, I kept thinking that this HAS to be a situation where the Baldwin came to Ritchie or whoever one goes to at BOOM! to get this sort of thing underway, and said "I have this great idea for a series with me as the lead- can you get someone to storyboard it for me, or even do it as a comic?" and thus, a new title is born. Three writers are credited: actor Stephen Baldwin, BOOM! stalwart Andrew Cosby, and new-to-me Caleb Monroe (who gets principal scripter credit) and the art is by equally-new-to-me Julian Totino Tedesco. It's got a ready-for-CBS-9PM setup, which begins in post-Katrina Louisiana and a young man pulled out of the water while floating unconscious, then switches to a retired CIA agent (who just happens to resemble Baldwin) who almost gets caught in an explosion in the building where he was filing to get his new wife added to his insurance. In the aftermath, our ex-spook sees the aforementioned Katrina floater. His wife comes under suspicion in the bombing, and while he strives to get her released from questioning, he's once again faced with the floater, and they kung-fu fight for a few panels before he flees. I don't know; the script doesn't really hit any false notes, and the artist is competent (not to mention a big fan of the Adam Hughes/Matt Haley school of comic art), even though he needs to work on his fight scenes...and as these sorts of things go, the premise is mildly interesting. I'll probably read the next couple, just to see where it goes. Hope it gets Baldwin the job. B-

P. Craig Russell's elegant retelling of Gaiman's imitation Japanese fairy tale continues in fine fashion; the story is a good one and Russell is simply a master of the form. Brevity is the soul of wit, they say, so this may be my wittiest capsule review ever. A

TERRA #3, 4: Likeable, if not especially innovative, just like the cute-as-hell title character; I personally think all comics could be improved by Amanda Connor art. Kudos to Graymiotti for ending this with a shopping/sushi expedition with Power Girl; a nice way to end the series and leave us with good memories before she gets twisted and perverted into god only knows what in her subsequent appearances in the current DCU. A-

TINY TITANS #11: Yep: cute. A-

This thing has been in draft status long enough; I will cover WASTELAND BOOK 03: BLACK STEEL IN THE HOUR OF CHAOS and LABOR DAYS (still reading them both; yes I can read them at the same time, why do you ask?) in the next Spinner Rack Junkie, due in early 2009.

Truth, as far as it goes.


Very good news from none other than the great Mike Kaluta- seems like IDW will be publishing longtime JBS fave Starstruck!

Here, in Mike's own words, cut-and-pasted from the Kaluta Yahoo! Group, and I hope it's ok for me to post this stuff:

...since the Agreements have arrived and been signed, I can
officially tell you that Starstruck, the Comic Book, will be
returning to the stands, in color! Whew! What a LONG haul this has
been... The painter who'll add the 6th Dimension is Lee Moyer: a big
Starstruck Scholar and fine fine painter. I'm adding about 2 inches
to every page so they'll fit the Comic Book Format (nothing much
added, though, not THERE, anyway) and there'll be New New covers and
an added page or two here and there.

To make up the 13 issues out of the material that is "finished", we
are adding the Galactic Girl Guide pages to the mix, so there'll be
about 22 pages of Real Comic Art in each book, plus The Starstruck
Glossary (always fun). The GGG work was to be a Graphic Novel for
Tundra, way back when, but never caught the Brass Ring... most of the
pages are pencilled by me and inked brilliantly by Charles Vess (the
20 pages that appeared in the back of The Rocketeer Adventure
Magazine are both pencilled and inked by me). All is written by
Elaine Lee and will also have Lee Moyer's fine hand on the added
color. The publisher is IDW.

If things go well, perhaps IDW will contract for Elaine and me to
finish the rest of the many many new pages...

And about the above page sample in particular:

The Starstruck Material will be basically the pages that appeared in
the Dark Horse "Expanding Universe" issues, with a few bits and
pieces tweaked for story purposes and, as I said, maybe a new linking
page when one of the longer stories gets cut in half. It'll be the
addition of The Galactic Girl Guides material that'll be new to most
everyone, and Lee Moyer's brilliant color. Here's just a taste of
what that man is capable of: a page done some years ago when last
time there seemed to be someone ready to print Starstruck in color...

Anyway, something to look forward to, and I especially hope it leads to the long-awaited resolution (or at least conclusion of sorts) to the whole thing...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In brightest day, in blackest logo shall escape my sight.


You see above a test logo, one of many, for a Green Lantern comic by Joe Quinones. He posted them at his blog, I really liked the one above, thought I'd share. I'd bet a million dollars (if I had it) that DC won't use it, though- it's too retro, not sleek and streamlined like they think all those GL comics have to look. Which is one reason, I suppose, that I don't buy Green Lantern.

Also, while I'm thinking about it, here's a BSBdG for Stan Lee, 86 years young today. I think its fair to say that without Stan, I wouldn't be here writing for you on such an infrequent basis.

Please stay tuned, I'm about halfway through a monster year-end Spinner Rack Junkie, which I hope to get completed today or tomorrow. Ciao, baby!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays.


Merry Christmas to all my friends and my dozens of readers.

Art by the ever-delightful Jason Bone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Since tonight is Christmas Eve, I figured I should try and post something moving and profound and so forth...but lacking the words, I thought of one of the best holiday-related things I've seen on TV in a long, long time might suffice: "O Holy Night" as performed by a group of musicians from New Orleans on the ill-fated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip's Christmas episode of a couple of years ago. The show went off the rails pretty quickly, and was a real disappointment, I think, but the Christmas show was perhaps the best one, outside of the pilot, that aired...and the clip above was one of the main reasons why.
"Night" is one of my favorite carols, especially the version on an LP I had growing up, by "The Magic Organ". I'm not exactly sure about that title; I think Mrs. B has a copy at home somewhere and I'll look it up later. Anyway. For more info on the musicians, go here.

And from all of me to all of you, I hope you all have a great Christmas season. Or Hannukah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Festivus. Or whatever.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008, I barely knew ye.

Once again, Tom Spurgeon put a Five for Friday question out there, and once more, I was unable to respond in a timely manner, due to lack of time and just plain laziness + fuzzy thinking. But after having seen the responses of others to the latest FfF, I think I can make my own list and put it here for all of youse, since the end of 2008 is rapidly approaching and one is inclined towards backwards-looking of this nature. So anyway, here's the question:

"Name Five Memorable Comics-Related Things About 2008 (A Book You Read, An Experience You Had, An Event That Made You Take Notice -- Anything That Would Help You In The Future Recall This Year."

I went back through my far-from-comprehensive 2008 blog post archives, and found several things that I thought were noteworthy enough to comment on.

First, here's what I would have sent in to Tom:

The death of Dave Stevens
My first published art in Fatalysia #3
My first commissioned sketch!
Getting my Super-Hip illustration from Fred Hembeck
Being invited to contribute reviews to Hopefully they don't regret it.

And here are some other memorable things from 2008 for me, comics-wise:

Gene Colan's illness and the response from the Comics Blogosphere.

Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko.

Comic Book Movies: Iron Man/Dark Knight/Hellboy 2/Watchmen hype.

Discovering Scalped, Blue Beetle, The Vinyl Underground.

Freddie & Me and the correspondence I had with creator Mike Dawson about the book and Queen.

Finding out the story behind the "Man Who Owned the Earth" story that I had as a kid and would love to read, hopefully, someone someday will scan this and put it online.

The death of Steve Gerber and the death of Jim Mooney. Ironic that both died in a year that saw the release of a new version of their collaboration, Omega the Unknown.

The Diana Prince: Wonder Woman collections: Having mostly skipped these when they originally came out (when I was about 9 years old), I had been interested in reading these for a long time, and just didn't want to spend the bucks to get a set on the ebay. That said, they were a bit of a disappointment, mostly, but I enjoyed them just the same and am glad to have them, and look forward to the next collection. Reviews here, here and here.

Returns by Thriller creators Robert Loren Fleming (via the mostly disappointing Ambush Bug: Year None) and Trevor Von Eeden (The Original Johnson at ComicMix).

The return of Dan Brereton's Nocturnals.

The demise of the Minx line.

The whole "supernatural divorce" thing in Spider-Man. Talk about a tempest in a teapot.

The whole Final Crisis...well, we probably shouldn't call it a fiasco just yet, because it's not over and there have been a few pretty good comics to come out of it so far. But it sure does seem like a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, and the whole event has suffered as a result. I mean, when even Todd Klein is ragging on your product, something is amiss.

Three really good animated series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Superjail. Oh, and the third season of the superlative Venture Bros.

...and that's about it. It's been an interesting year, for the most part, and it will get a lot more interesting in 2009, I'm sure. Hopefully, I'll be up to the task of blogging about it. I have a lot of meat-world things (as Ellis so charmingly puts it) going on that conspire to sap my time and energy, and I often find myself wondering how I did it back in, oh, '04 or '06. I'm considering making this an all-purpose blog again, and going back to writing about movies and music and TV as well, and getting rid of the Off the Record blog, which I never seem to have the energy and enthusiasm to post to. I don't know. Regardless, I will continue to do what I can when I can, and I am, as always, grateful that you care to read whenever I do manage to post something.

I plan to get at least one more big comics review column up before 2009 strikes, and hopefully I'll get a few more posts up before year's end. I'm saving one in particular for Christmas that I'm excited about; it's a video clip of something Xmas-related that just knocked me out a year or so ago. So as always, stay tuned!

Oh, and the above illo is what I thought was a pertinent-to-2008 comic by Chris Sanders, from his great Kiskaloo series (which has been, unfortunately, on hiatus for far too long). I hope he doesn't mind me putting it up there.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ima Gunna Get New Kahmicks!

Yes, that's right, it's time once more for me to share with each and every one of you what I'll be getting in my DCBS box, and eventually reviewing, come Thursday or Friday! And these ARE:


JINGLE BELLE: SANTA CLAUS VS FRANKENSTEIN- Yes, I read this one already and wrote about it over a week ago, through the magic of illegal downloading. Don't worry, Mr. Dini, I trashed the file after reviewing it for

TERRA #3, 4: Gotta love those weekly series (or is it bi-weekly? Getting my books as I do, I lose track)

SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS #2: I had bitched a little in my review of #1 at, you guessed it, about the drab coloring, and lo and behold along comes the artist, Craig Russell, who sent me JPEGs showing me how different the color was in the originals compared to the way it printed. I appreciated that very much, but have not yet had the chance to dig my copy of #1 back out of storage to compare. Still, he says subsequent issues will be better, and I do not doubt his word for a minute.


HELLBOY: THE WILD HUNT #1: I, for one, thought Duncan Fregredo's art was the best thing about the previous miniseries he and Mignola collaborated on, and he's back for more with this one. Hopefully the story will be a bit less convoluted and a bit more unpredictable.

FINAL CRISIS #5: I've read this already, and it is indeed an explosion of action, but sadly it detonates at the expense of clarity. Morrison seems to be writing this like Eno used to compose pop song lyrics: by writing random sentences and phrases on cue cards, then shuffling them up and reordering them. Not exactly conducive to reader enjoyment.

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #5: They should just collect Giffen's CBR columns.

100 BULLETS #98

HELLBLAZER #250: Jesus, I can't believe this has hit the 250 issue mark already. It's a grab bag of writers and artists, some of which are returning, some of which are brand new. I'm looking forward to seeing the great Sean Phillips draw ol' Conjob again.

COURTNEY CRUMRIN AND THE PRINCE OF NOWHERE: I have yet to fail to enjoy a Courtney Crumrin series or one-shot, and I have no doubt that this will continue that trend.

WASTELAND BOOK 03: BLACK STEEL IN THE HOUR OF CHAOS TP: Even though the scripting is derivative and mannered, and I don't care for the art all that much either, I am still interested in some level in what happens I tradewait with this one. I believe this might be the last one if I'm not blown away by this one, though.

I also placed my order for books shipping in February:

100 BULLETS #100 (No! It can't be...over? They should put out an issue #101 in a few months just to mess with people)
B.P.R.D.: BLACK GODDESS #2 (I think I used the Beyoncé joke last time, so I won't go there)
AGENTS OF ATLAS #1 (Hey! They're back, faux Venus and all.)
JERSEY GODS #1 (I don't think Kevin Smith has anything to do with this; blame Sims for bringing it to my attention. It looks veddy interesting.)
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE UNIVERSE #5 GN (The hype leader for early 2009 is in the pipeline!)

That's all I got!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Merely liking a comic isn't qualification enough. It's not a race, not simply a matter of outrunning the competition. It means the work was notably better, in ways that can be explained, that it stands out from the other work in its milieu, that the author(s) brought something new to the table.

I don't want to know what critics and listmakers like. I want to know how trustworthy their aesthetic judgment is.

-Steven Grant, from Permanent Damage 12/10/08

Yep, the end of the year is upon us once more, which means that it is incumbent upon me to cobble together some sort of list of what I thought were the best comics of the last 365 days. I can't recall a year in which there has been more back-and-forth niggling about what constitutes a "best-of" list, or even if people should do them in the first place.

I say why the hell not? It's only natural to categorize and group things; to look back and reflect on another calendar year's worth of any sort of things that are related to entertainment in an easily categorizable way such as comics, movies, TV shows, and so forth. Me personally, I do this for myself as much as I do you guys, simply because it's interesting to me to come back to a whole calendar year's worth of stuff and see how I rated it...and if anyone is moved to investigate further, all the better as far as I'm concerned.

As I've done for the last five, this will be a list of the ten best books that I have personally read; which will unfortunately eliminate a lot of very fine titles, ably and most likely quite justifiably championed by others, you know- the people that Deppey and Carlson link to instead of me- that I simply haven't had the chance to read due to lack of funds or interest or connections with the appropriate publishers or all of the above. No Kramer's Ergots or Momes or name-your-indie-fave here, I'm afraid. So I'm not saying that these are the absolute best comics and comics-related publications of the past 12 months; it's just the best of what I've personally read, in my opinion, in that period of time. I think this ten is above the average, in general, of what has been, sorry to say, a mostly undistinguished year of releases. Note that word mostly, because like I said I am sadly unexposed to what I'm sure are a lot of extraordinary publications that I've seen on other lists. This will fail Mr. Grant's criteria, no doubt, but hey- I don't play in his league anyway so what the hell. OK. Disclaimer complete, lets do this, shall we? These are in alphabetical order, just so's you don't think that I'm playing favorites or anything. Relatively speaking, of course.

AQUA LEUNG by Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury

In my review of this back in April, I said: Big, sprawling, ambitious epic adventure, loose and cartoonish and full of energy, and is obviously the work of two creators who are totally committed to bringing it to life. Yeah. Well, unfortunately the two creators couldn't play well together and therefore this will be, for the time being, a one-shot...what a pity.

B.P.R.D.: 1946 by Mike Mignola, Josh Dysart, and Paul Azaceta.

I knew about Azaceta from a Boom! series that I liked, Talent. I wasn't too familiar with Dysart's previous work. Together, working from a Mignola plot, they melded perfectly to bring us this adventure of Hellboy's mentor Professor Bruttenholm in the early days of the Bureau, post WWII, as he and his Russian counterparts (led by a demon in the form of a young ringlet-haired girl- it works better than you'd think) investigate a Nazi project codenamed Vampir Stürm...the nature of which you can probably guess. Azaceta shines on art, equally outstanding when creating mood as well as depicting balls-out action, and Dysart's matter-of-fact dialogue is perfect. Surely one of the best Hellboy spinoffs ever.

CRIMINAL 2 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Don't know what else I can say about this that hasn't been said a thousand times by pretty much everyone, myself included; outstanding writing, excellent art. In particular, for me it's always a pleasure to look at Phillips' unflashy but always satisfying work. I'm not always the biggest noir fan, in both film and prose, but I enjoy this, so I suppose that's saying something.

FREDDIE AND ME by Mike Dawson

Winning reminisce by Dawson, who combines his life story with his love for music, especially the rock band Queen. Review here.

HELLBOY: THE CROOKED MAN by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben

Several fine writers have taken a crack at Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. with varying results; most of them have done a good job either on their own or working from Mignola script ideas. But no one writes the big red guy like his creator, and this ranks up there with any of the best Hellboy stories from years past. Set in the 1950's Appalachians in Virginia, and drawing from the same backwoods supernatural legends vein that Manly Wade Wellman tapped for his Silver John/John the Balladeer stories, and distinguished by the unusual and (as it turns out) wise decision to have the title character take a back seat to the colorful cast and be a passive observer rather than an active participant, although he does get to do the requisite monster-fighting and a great scene at the end. By and large, it was a good year for Hellboy and its spinoffs, although In the Chapel of Moloch was dissapointing.

by Joe Casey and Eric Canete

Essentially a revamp of the first couple of meetings between the Mandarin and Iron Man waaaay back in 1963-64, a good job by Joe Casey, but galvanized by the dynamic art of Eric Canete. This one kinda got lost in the shuffle in the host of miniseries and such by higher-profile creators when the Iron Man movie made its premiere, most of which I didn't read so I can't tell you if this was any better than them- but I guarantee you that this is a very well-done and for me, very entertaining series thanks to Canete, an artist to watch.

LOVE & ROCKETS: NEW STORIES by Los Bros. Hernandez

Let's face it; pretty much anything the talented Bros. release in any given year is going to merit consideration on any year-end best-of list, because they're just that good. This was the only issue that was released this past year in its new, bigger format, and it was worth the expense. Best of the book for me was Jaime's epic Penny Century superhero adventure; I also got a kick out of Gilbert's Mitchell and Petrillo adventure fantasy.


It's been way too long since Brereton revisited arguably his most famous creations, so this would have been welcome in any respect...but by jumping right in and resuming old plot threads with a harder edge, this turned out to be something special. And of course, Dan's painted art was excellent as always. Hopefully, the wait for the next chapter won't be as long as it was for this one.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN by Jonathan Lethem and Faryl Dalrymple

Easily one of the most atypical comics, in both content and style, Marvel has ever published, each issue of this revamp of the short-lived Steve Gerber/Mary Skrenes/Jim Mooney 1970's series was a veritable smorgasbord of food for thought. Gerber himself wasn't too happy about it, but I have to believe if he'd lived to read it, he would have acknowledged its quality, even if he wouldn't have taken it in this direction.

SCALPED by Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera and Davide Furno

Grim, down-to-earth dramatics involving Native Americans on a South Dakotan reservation. Unremittingly bleak, but it never rings false, and is Deadwood-like in its scope and ambition. Has been criticized for not ever showing its subjects in a more positive light, and that is a valid criticism, but it's no less compelling for this.

Honorable mentions: SUPER SPY, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL 15-22 (naked fun with Catwoman and Batgirl!), THE VINYL UNDERGROUND (better than everyone seemed to think, and deserved a longer run, if you ask me), MEAT CAKE #17, THE BOYS, THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST (mostly the Brubaker/Fraction issues, but the Swierczynski issues had their moments despite lackluster art), MADAME XANADU (overcame a slow start, and artist Amy Reeder Hadley is the freshest thing to hit Vertigo in ages), MAINTENANCE, JACK STAFF, UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE, GREATEST HITS, JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER (Diggle brought the goods), FABLES, 100 BULLETS, TOP 10: SEASON TWO, TINY TITANS (cute), NORTHLANDERS, CATWOMAN, HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER, MANHUNTER, INCREDIBLE HERCULES, SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS, JOKER'S ASYLUM: PENGUIN, SALT WATER TAFFY: A CLIMB UP MT. BARNABUS, FREAKANGELS (I've been reading the weekly webposts, but a collected version of this is available now) and STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Here we go again with CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write shortish 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 November 24 through December 6th, 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.

AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #4: Damn. It pains me to write this, but this is just as tedious and unfunny as the stuff they're trying to send up, and somehow I don't think that's what they're shooting for. C+

APOCALIPSTIX V1: Hanna-Barbera get further validation, as this answers the question "What if, instead of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, we put them in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style future instead?" The girls, a rock band forced to fend for themselves after a nuclear explosion, encounter the standard giant monsters (cute little homage to Them) and punked-out goons and thugs (some of which are musicians, too) as they travel to California, where it's said to be relatively safe and unscathed. The scripts are kinda hackneyed, without a lot of spark, hardly dull but never breaking any new ground. Fortunately, artist Cam Stewart is on board to provide spark and then some- this is a great showcase for some of the best art I've ever seen from him- lively, appealing, full of wit and humor, it's really an eye-opener. I liked his stint on Catwoman, but this is light years ahead of that. Perhaps writer Fawkes will be able to expand on this and get in a groove, so you might want to get in on the ground floor here; I wish this was a bit more of this or that, but what it is is not bad. B+

BATMAN #681, 682:
The devil, Grant? Really? Isn't that kind of, oh, juvenile? Kinda cliché? Are you channeling Dana Carvey's Church Lady? OK, I'm willing to grant that you were most likely trying to dovetail this with All-Star Superman, a yin-yang sort of thematic thing...but was that any reason to give us such a whimper of an ending to what was already a convoluted mess in the first place? Even so, I'm willing to cut slack here because let's face it, you were saddled with a not-ready-for-prime-time illustrator; not since the bad old days of the early 90's has the major storyline of a flagship title been presented in such slipshod fashion. Be that as it may, the method in which Bats got the upper hand back with aid from an unexpected source, was well-done (albeit reheated; we've seen this before, you know we have), and for my money it's always nice to see the Squire, but ultimately I fail to see why this entire storyline has sparked the discussion it has- are we that desperate for something to write about, or so in thrall to Morrison's spread-thin genius, that we elevate this routine potboiler (which, let's face it, would have been done in no more than two issues in an Irv Novick-illo'd Detective Comics showcase in the 1970's) to the level of "something remarkable"?. #682 is slightly more fun, and slightly better-drawn, although not by much- artist Lee Garbett displays much better work on his website, here displaying a dismaying reliance on the scratchy-line inks of the Image early 90's heyday. For someone who has fond memories of the brief 70's Detective featurette "If Bruce Wayne Had Not Become the Batman", it has a bit more resonance that it probably should have. Look, I sympathize and to a point agree that Batman had become too much of a Miller-ish psychotic, arrogant prick and needed to be shifted back towards a more reader-friendly center...but I'm not so sure that rummaging around in his canonical closet and pulling out the zebra costumes, spaceships and Bat-Hounds are the way to go about it. Just stop writing him as a prick, that's all! ETA, because I forgot this point I meant to make for days now: Most importantly, though, what this issue does is give Grant an out for the events of the last dozen or so issues- if this Zur En Arrh crap proves unwieldy or unusable, then hey! It was all in Batman's mind as he was being screwed around with by the Lump (neat to see him again, by the way- he appeared in one of my favorite issues of Mister Miracle) and the two Apokolipsian scientists. How convenient! #681: C+ #682: B-

Despite some amusing byplay between the myriad guest stars (mostly the Teen Titans, back for an encore) which the decision-makers behind this dead title walking seem(ed) to believe was/is crucial to its success, this is another underwhelming exercise, well-drawn (mostly) by Rafael Albuquerque (who has some Travel Foreman-like clarity issues at odd times here) but ultimately more run of the mill superheroics. There's been a lot of discussion about the whys and wherefores of the failure of this title, some even from the previous scripter, and I can't really argue with a lot of the points people are making. Like I mentioned above, I'd posit that the endless stream of presumably interest-piquing guest stars didn't help; it gives the unspoken connotation that this character wasn't interesting enough on its own, and needed other, more popular characters around at all times to make it so. Maybe someday DC will trust its characters to stand on their own, perhaps even in our lifetime. C+

BODY BAGS ONE SHOT: The title describes even as it delegates! Anyway that brutal pop-and-daughter duo is back again, picking up right where they left off (I don't remember the last time I saw a BB story; perhaps in something affiliated with The Ride, maybe? This one's a tad overdue) with a lot of blood n' cussin n' sassy humor and of course excellent Jason Pearson art. I freely admit that this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I have a soft spot for this sort of thing, especially by a talented creator such as Pearson, so I won't try to defend myself. If you share my predilection, you will probably already have this, but if you haven't partaken and aren't particularly offended by a lot of stabby stuff and crude humor, you might want to start here. Good luck with the back issues. A-

I forget who it was that was complaining about the White Tiger character when she was first introduced, but apparently their opinions were heard, because she's dealt with in desultory fashion by that Lady Bullseye character towards the end, a waste if you ask me- but that's the Big Two these days- if a writer doesn't understand, respect or want to use a character, don't let him/her/it languish in Limbo, perpetrate some sort of savagery on him/her/it! It's kewler and more adult that way! Just like Yelena Belova. Sigh. Anyway, just for the record, I'm passingly interested in how they'll finagle Matt out of his latest jam, so I'm sticking around for that anyway. B-

HAUNTED TANK #1: If I ever read any of the original sagas of Col. Jeb Stuart and the Tank, I don't remember them- even though I'd be amazed if I hadn't run across one in a reprint book or I guess I'm hardly any sort of authority on whether or not this is a satisfying continuation of an old character. But that rarely stops me from opining, so here you go! So here's the Colonel, all updated for the Aughts and plopped into the Iraqi War, and striving to help a stock multiracial cast of characters who drive a tank for the US forces. I wish the dialogue was sharper and the cast better defined except by their nationalities, but at least he doesn't skirt the issue of a Confederate soldier's ghost aiding a living black soldier, and while it's a lot too talky in the service of exposition, things do happen- enough to make me at least wonder what the writer has in mind, if anything. The art's not bad; Henry Flint can draw a little, although he has some awkward moments drawing faces and heads and hats on same, and he works a little too hard to ensure a Geoff Darrow-esque detailed style. I can't see this lighting any sort of fire under the collective asses of what passes for fandom these days, but I've certainly seen worse revivals, and worse comics in general, lately. B-

HELLBLAZER #249: Another in a series of John confronting various aspects of himself; OK as far as it goes, and it resolves Diggle's run in satisfying fashion. He did a good job; wish he hadn't felt such a burning need to write superheroes for Joey Q. A-

Reasonably decent conclusion to the whole "Iron Fists die at age 33" thing; Duane Swierczynski has a pretty good vision for this title, and I hope he gets the sales that will allow him to realize it. I also hope he gets a different artist soon; Foreman's muddled, poorly staged style makes these stories a lot harder to parse than they should be. B

Pak and Van Lente strive so hard for the yocks that this almost reads like a collaboration between Jack Kirby and Mel Brooks- Blazing Spandex, perhaps. But I like his buffoonish Herc, especially when he gets a good idea, and I love the deeper-than-usual mythological trappings the pair bring to the whole storyline- all the characterization, in fact, is nicely done. The slick, professional art, which seems like an amalgam of the best traits of Sprouse, Pacheco, and, oh, Leonard Kirk, makes it all look good, blending the comedy and high adventure pretty well. For once, I can see what the small but persistent fanbuzz is about. A-

Reviewed at A-

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #21: To the surprise of absolutely no one that's ever read a comic book before, this Gog character turns out to be less than altruistic in nature. The usual conflicts and scrapes ensue, some drawn by the regular artists, some by Jerry Ordway, who just can't keep himself out of these sorts of things, and altogether we're just marching tediously along to another "senses-shattering conclusion in which nothing will ever be the same". Or something like that. C+

Seriously, guys, that's too much title. And really, what's up with all these one-shots that could have been inserted easily into the regular title? Is this some sort of marketing strategy that I'm too naive and ignorant to understand? Fortunately, as superhero dramatics go, this is pretty solid, especially given the direction this title's gone in, so I guess it gets an objective B-.

MADAME XANADU #6: Picking up where we left off, with Madame X languishing in a Marie Antoinette-era dungeon, losing her power and vitality, and making a deal with Death (you know, from Gaiman's Sandman) to get it back. A highlight for me was the scene in which she lays the tarot for the cute Endless; it really played to Amy Hadley's strengths as an artist. Less interesting was the post-dungeon stuff (I guess that's a spoiler, if you're kinda slow on the uptake), which features the final fate of Miss Antoinette and yet another confrontation with the Phantom Stranger, ever the stick-in-the-mud. All concerned have settled into a good little groove on this book, and right now I hope it has a nice long Fables-ish run. A-

NORTHLANDERS #11: Father and daughter, on the run from the occupying authorities in 11th century Ireland. A new story arc begins, and gets off to a good start; even though the beleaguered daughter seems to cry "DA!" a lot, the relationship born out of desperation between her and her father rings true. A big plus is the art by Local boy made good Ryan Kelly; he really is a superior illustrator. A-

SALT WATER TAFFY V2: A CLIMB UP MT. BARNABAS: Matt Loux and the Putnam Brothers are back in Chowder Bay, ME with another whimsical adventure in this, the sequel to V1, "The Legend of Old Salty", and it's as much fun as the first. After their father brags about climbing to the top of the titular mountain and stealing his hat from the giant eagle from which it gets its name, one of the Bros. goes out with it on and promptly gets it stolen back by the same eagle! Now, they must climb to the top themselves and get it back, in an episodic fashion which sometimes seems a bit like a video game but is generally kept light and fast-paced. Loux's oddball art style adds to the general off-kilter tall-tale feel of the whole thing, as well as the conveniently quirky touches such as the Bros.' ability to talk to animals (those lobsters are especially a hoot). Sometimes he writes the boys as such dolts that it's a surprise when they display the ingenuity to get out of some of t he scrapes they find themselves in, but I suppose it all balances out in the end. Another entertaining issue of what looks like a fun series so far. A-

SCALPED #23: Things keep getting bleaker for all concerned, no surprise there, and while it certainly doesn't make this an enjoyable reading experience, it does have its rewards, especially if you're an admirer of a tragic tale well told. I hope you know what I mean. A

Same intriguing story with some really good That's Our Kane moments; same middling art that's just too under-rendered to be pleasing to the eye; same drab but oddly appropriate coloring. This remains a better adaptation than I expected, and will make a really good trade collection if the ending isn't botched. B+

We get more well-done JSA cameos, and a bit more info about our heroine and her world, if not her motivations necessarily. But once more, the chief reason to check this out, and the one thing that makes it worthwhile, is the art of Amanda Connor; it's sleek and sexy, yet playful and genial and she greatly elevates what would be, in lesser hands, a very marginal title indeed. B+

TINY TITANS #10: Still cute. A-

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #1: One of the oddest super-teams this side of the Outsiders is back and is dealing with the fallout from the previous series, which I reviewed here (go all the way to the bottom of the page). It's consistent in quality with its predecessor; lots of Gaiman/Morrison style oddness with it's biggest strength being the angular stylings of Gabriel Ba, and I have no doubt that this will be quirky, if nothing else. A-

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #2: The second issue of this earnestly sincere (is that redundant? Oh well) update/revamp of another old DC war comic hero proceeds in pretty much the same vein as the first; the idealistic young doctor we met last issue descends further into what seems to be some sort of schizophrenia as he continues his transformation into a killing machine in 2002 Africa. We also are introduced to a mercenary of some sort who is set to track down our soon-to-be soldier, thus establishing the menace and the conflict- besides his inner one. I really wish that more emphasis had been placed on Moses Lwanga's reaction to being torn from his life of privilege and his new state as a disfigured killing machine. He just keeps seeing visions and plunging into another rescue mission right off the bat, and I guess that's Dysart's way of goosing the story along. Perhaps I'm looking for something that he doesn't want to spend time with, who knows. The art is serviceable but bland; the run of the Vertigo mill. I'm interested for now, but not blown away- I think it deserves another couple of issues to get its legs, though. B+

Also featuring the return of the creaky old "the power was within you all along, child" cliche, as well as a guest appearance by the Justice League because Vixen sure doesn't seem to be able to sell many copies on the strength of her name alone, right? Be this as it may or may not, based on her not-bad JLA (especially Black Lightning) here, Willow Wilson seems to me to be a lot more comfortable writing superheroes than she does flight attendants, which suggests that perhaps her talents might be better utilized in that direction, rather than on indulgences such as it's readable, if not especially exciting. It would help if they had found an artist with such a less aggressively ordinary style; this Cashew or Cafu or Coffe or Cafe or whatever he calls himself adequately illustrates the story, and nothing more- he certainly doesn't enhance the narrative, that's for sure. Unless you're just a fan of the character, and a not particularly picky one at that, you can safely skip this and not feel like you're missing out on anything. C+

Look for a longer post on the Local HC, as well as the Oni GNs Labor Days and Crogan's Vengeance, along with El Diablo 4, and others soon.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Today is the 28th anniversary of the senseless and maddening murder of John Lennon.

Yasurakani nemure, John.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Above, you see my first copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland, purchased for me by my doting grandparents at the local Houchens Market when I was all of 6 years old. Having seen Curse of the Demon on the Big Show, Nashville Channel 5's afternoon movie showcase, and having loved it, of course, I wanted to read more about it- and this issue certainly did the trick. As it turned out, not long after they screened Invasion of the Saucermen as well, and I liked that one too- and to this day I have a deep fondness for both. Well, Curse anyway- it's a truly good movie. Saucermen, not so much, although it certainly has its low-budget drive-in-style charms. Anyway, I read many subsequent issues growing up, as well as other Warren publications like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, and they all nurtured my budding love for horror films and fiction. Even though FM always had a lot of cool photos and features, and the movie recaps were always neat, looking back it strikes me now how there were no "bad" horror flicks in their purview, and the likes of Plan 9 From Outer Space were treated with the same equinanimous regard as true classics like The Bride of the FM world if it had monsters and frights in it, it was all good and worthy of inclusion in their pages. However, like Bill Sherman, eventually I began to want a little more, well, critical thinking in my film discussions and soon gravitated to other genre publications like Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times. But FM, and this issue in particular, set me down that path.

I bore you with this reminisce in order to eulogize FM publisher Forrest J Ackerman, who died Thursday at age 92. He was one of the original fans, instrumental in the formation of what we call fandom today- and his influence and inspiration to countless future geeks like me is immeasurable. He didn't have to publish FM, it wasn't his main occupation- but I for one will be eternally grateful that he did.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

You may have noticed, or perhaps you haven't: It's been almost a week since I posted, due to a constant flow of distractions and work/stress/miscellaneous issues, and even an honest-to-Crom vacation last week. Unfortunately, I don't see it ending anytime soon, although I hope to get some comics reviews written before too long. If nothing else, I have a post scheduled for Christmas, and I suppose I should cobble together a best of 2008 list pretty soon.

Anyway, just thought I'd drop a post and let those of you who care know what's going on. I'm pretty sure that everyone who visits here knows that I am not, by any means, an every-day sort of blogger. Everybody else, move on, nothing to see here. For now, anyway. But if past experience has taught me anything, it's that no sooner do I post something like this, that my often-missing drunken crack whore muse decides to shamble up the front steps and beat on the front door, abrasively demanding to be let in.

So, that oh so familiar refrain once more: Please bear with, more will be forthcoming.