9.24.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

There’s something for everyone this week, with a slew of hot creator owned titles hitting the stands. There’s the drama of BKV & Fiona Staples’ sales juggernaut Saga #23 continuing its Shakespearean sprawl in the stars, the slow conceptual burn of Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski’s post-shared superhero universe affair in Sex #16, and the unmistakable magic of Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten’s dark fantasy series in Umbral #9. If you want to see some of the most inventive lettering, check out Thomas Mauer’s work on this title.

Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini’s series clicked for me with the last issue, so I’m anxious to check out Low #3, Matt Kindt’s opus is always an easy recommendation for reality-altering intellectual espionage, so check out Mind MGMT #26, and Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta’s new joint sees its next issue with Outcast #4, which has been an exceptionally easy sell down at the LCS (“Do you like The Exorcist? Ok, read this!”). G.I. Joe #1 offers an impressive new take on the property at the hands of Karen Traviss & Steve Kurth that is modernized, mature, and concerned with relevant realpolitik.

Letter 44 #10 is out from Charles Soule & Alberto Alburquerque, and I’m still loving the high concept of this series (military adventurism justified via ramping up R&D and creating battle-hardened troops to address an impending alien invasion) juxtaposed with contemporary real-world politics in the W and Obama analogues. (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Charles Soule will be signing at my LCS Yesteryear Comics in San Diego this Saturday starting at 10am, so I’ll see you there!)

I’ll also be picking up C.O.W.L. #5, a real sleeper which has been delighting with its retro noir street-level take on unionized supes operating in Chicago, creating all kinds of social upheaval. There’s some great world-building happening in this series and it’s been flying under the radar, so get on board now. I’ll take a peek at Roche Limit #1 by Michael Moreci & Vic Malhotra because of a) their use of a cool scientific term I had to look up, and b) the fact that Malhotra is an artist I’ve had my eye on since his work on Thumbprint at IDW with Joe Hill. I think Malhotra’s going to be a big deal.

I’ve read an advance of the issue, courtesy of creator Larime Taylor, and I’m excited to see the return of A Voice In The Dark: Get Your Gun #1, a subversively dark thriller about college serial killings, which just nails the behavioral science of precipitating incidents acting as catalysts for damaged psyches. This once black and white series uses color well, by positioning foreground objects that really pop against the muted backgrounds to differentiate contextual elements and the main focus for our eyes. This issue sees Zoey rattled and off her game, for once getting a taste of what it’s like to be the one stalked and hunted.

But, my book of the week will be The Massive #27 by Brian Wood & Garry Brown. As the series builds to its crescendo at #30, the escalation of reveals to mysteries put in place dozens of issues ago has dazzled recently with babies, boats, and brave new worlds. John Paul Leon’s cover is eerily beautiful, with a painterly Hudson River School effect that would be at home hanging on the wall in a Fine Art institution. I’ve read an advance of this too, and with the startling moments surrounding the state of Cal’s health, additional hints at the true nature of The Crash, and Mary’s covert Ninth Wave ark, there’s the sense the creators are about to stick the landing in the most unexpected way. 


9.17.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your first and only destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s another very solid week (especially if you’re a Warren Ellis fan) with Supreme: Blue Rose #3 and Trees #5 both arriving in stores. I’m also really looking forward to The Wicked + The Divine #4 with its pop myth quasi-religious treatment regarding the fickle nature of fame. There’s also Hemingway stealing the show in The Life After #3 by Gabo and Joshua Hale Fialkov (a writer I’m paying more attention to lately), in addition to Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #7. I’m curious to see George Perez’s Sirens #1. I grew up on Perez art in New Teen Titans and it really informed my adult likes, so I’m hoping it rises above the slightly pandering and gratuitous vibe I get from the teaser images. For my money, the book of the week will be Manifest Destiny #10. Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts have created a perfect blend of historical speculative fiction surrounding Lewis & Clark’s expedition being a classified mission to address mysterious forces, and art rendered in a style rustic and believable, with intense action and some of the best coloring happening in the industry today at the hands of Owen Gieni. It’s still a few months off, but I’m fairly certain this title will stand as one of my picks for best of the year. 


9.10.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your first and only destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

In terms of what I’m interested in, this is a huge week. We’ve got the impeccable Lazarus #11, the seriously-heating up Sheltered #11, the visually captivating East of West #15, the dystopic time travel drama of The Bunker #6, the retro-inspired curiosity-piquing Captain Victory & The Galactic Rangers #2, and an old reliable in the form of Astro City #15, a series which never fails to delight with its peripheral investigations of a shared superhero universe. There’s also a bunch of “maybes” that I’ll give a casual flip at the LCS, like Prophet Strike File #1, Injustice: Gods Among Us #11, Wild’s End #1, Spread #3, Rot & Ruin #1, and even the publishing-stunt-played-to-death-(heh) Death of Wolverine #2, just to see what all the hubbub is about, bub. I’m also extremely curious to see how rising star Justin Greenwood (Wasteland, The Fuse) is going to handle his turn with Greg Rucka’s down-on-her-luck private investigator in Stumptown: Vol. 3 #1, and in any other week, this would probably have garnered the top spot. But, I’ve got to go with an old favorite in Wasteland #57 (Oni Press). With series co-creator Chris Mitten back on pencils, and the final arc chugging hard toward its planned conclusion at #60, the series has never been better. We’re finally getting answers about the origins of The Big Wet, and I never would have suspected these socially charged flashbacks to be so captivating. Wasteland has vaulted to the top of the reading pile every week it’s been released because the mystery that Antony Johnston has been penning for years is finally revealing itself, and I’ve been savoring every panel.  


Jonathan Maberry @ Yesteryear Comics [Signing]

I’m happy to announce that my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics has their next in-store signing scheduled for next Wednesday September 10th, 2014. This signing will feature New York Times best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (V Wars, Black Panther, Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher). He’ll be in the store from 10am to 1pm, and we’ll be celebrating the release of his new series Rot & Ruin.

I’ll be working this event, so if you’re in San Diego, please stop by to say hi, support the renaissance of creator owned comics, and support my friend Michael, owner of Yesteryear Comics. Additionally, I'll be acting as a CGC Witness and verifying signatures for those of you interested in submitting books for professional grading. For more information, check out Facebook.com/YesteryearComics.


Moon Knight #7 [Advance Review]

The City is The Thing.

If you’ve ever read any of Brian Wood’s books, especially his Creator Owned Comics – because those are the best kind of comics, natch – then you know that the writer fiercely loves New York City, and the city tends to pervade the work.

In books written by Brian Wood (Channel Zero, The New York Four, and DMZ probably serving as the best example), New York City transcends its status as mere metropolitan setting and becomes a thematic undercurrent, if not one of the characters outright. That’s certainly the case with his inaugural issue of the new Moon Knight, a character which has sort of shifted recently from his convoluted continuity roots to embody that new ideal.

If Wilson was “The Ghost Protector of Chinatown” in DMZ, then I’m gonna’ take some liberties with Brian Wood’s writing and go ahead and go on record and say that Moon Knight is “The Ghost Protector of Marvel’s NYC.”

For this run on Moon Knight, Brian Wood is collaborating with Greg Smallwood (ok, go ahead and get all of the “Big Wood” and “Small Wood” jokes out of your system, you idiots, I swear I’ve heard them all during my LCS shifts, and I’ll wait for you to compose yourself, because this book is more important than that vapid nonsense), along with Eisner-Winning Color Queen Jordie Bellaire. In a nod at providing consistency with Warren Ellis’ approach on the title, Declan Shalvey remains on cover art duty, Bellaire’s coloring itself is a welcome holdover, and Greg Smallwood brings a similar intent to the creative team.

Smallwood’s sense of purpose is all about layout fluidity and panel ingenuity. As was the case with Shalvey, there’s deliberately a sense of experimentation at play, but Smallwood puts a lot of his own English on the ball, if you’ll pardon the pool term. If you caught his captivating work on Dream Thief with Jai Nitz, then you’ll particularly notice his superb use of sound effects as panels. You’ll notice small flourishes like the manga-inspired visual symbol for a dead cell battery. It adds so much life to such a throwaway moment when you consider what the alternative might have been. What, a little red battery icon that said 0%? C’mon. What we get instead is a memorable moment instead of a flyover panel. When you understand and have mastered the fundamentals and then selectively break those rules, you know what that’s called? That’s called style.

I’ll draw your attention to two additional pages that’ll allow me to sing the praises of Greg Smallwood. On page 8, he uses the first of two 15-panel grids(!) contained in the issue to illustrate an urban blackout. This design punctuates the proceedings with a manic sense of claustrophobia and lurking danger. It’s just beat after beat after beat selling you on what it feels like to be in this dark city with a vigilante waiting in the shadows. I’d be remiss in not also calling out Jordie Bellaire’s lighting on this page, which sort of works its way up the side of the sequence, ignoring panel borders and inconsequential gutters to illuminate the area where your eye needs to eventually arrive. If you liked stuff like David Aja’s work with Matt Fraction on The Immortal Iron Fist, or their later collaboration on the popular Hawkeye for something slightly more contemporary, then Moon Knight is the place you need to be.

For the coup de grace to all of the lesser artists out there (sorry to be so direct, but y’all need to step up your game after this page), I’ll direct your attention to page 20. Moon Knight calls his Wing in for an emergency airlift. Simultaneously, this inventive page layout: A) provides a very cool panel-busting reveal for his aerial gadget, B) moves your eye down the page, falling with gravity in a series of inverted trapezoids, which C) bring you to your final destination, looking into the scope of a rifle, unwittingly carrying all of the storytelling action without any pesky dialogue, and D) pull back and the entire fucking page forms an exclamation point which punches you in the face while it punctuates everything I just described! That’s some multivalent shit happening right there. This is the kind of original art piece that people lust after.

Brian Wood’s script also deliberately pays its respects to Warren Ellis and what came before. It captures the perfect blend of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” while still putting his stamp on the work for discerning readers. There’s an effort made to capture the elusive feel of what Ellis instituted, not just the look. The book continues the use of the same intro text. There’s the same inclusion of forward-thinking technology that futurist fiction writers love to dabble in. It works as a done-in-one, but now connects to a larger narrative arc. Moon Knight’s sense of humor has that deadpan voice to it, evidenced by lines like “Carry on.” Moon Knight might be a raving loon. Everyone else he encounters might think he’s a raving loon (albeit with moments of stark clarity). But, Moon Knight doesn’t think he’s a raving loon. He’s quite serious. He doesn’t exist relative to anyone else’s perception of him. The best villains and anti-heroes are always the protagonists of their own narrative. It’s that juxtaposition that allows this brand of straight-faced humor to work.

It may be a little early to posit observations like this, but I do think this could function as one of Brian Wood’s “New York City Books,” because of the way the city already seems intent on establishing itself as a fundamental element. Moon Knight says as much, that this is his city, protecting the city is important, the city is a living breathing organism that’s just been knocked unconscious, the city is something more than the sum of its constituent parts. Wood also laces the script with some of his trademark moves (DMZ again service as a good example), like the newsfeed used as a contextual backdrop, the awareness of global political tension, or the sense of social unrest that seems to be bubbling just below the surface. 

The Wood and Smallwood Moon Knight strikes me as slightly less the offbeat psychological recluse of the Ellis and Shalvey Moon Knight, a necessary adjustment reflecting the proclivities of (primarily) the writer. If the Ellis Moon Knight was half Suited White Knight Detective (subverting its roots as Marvel’s own Dark Knight derivative), and half, I don’t know, Doctor Strange, then the Wood Moon Knight is portrayed as more half Suited White Knight Detective, half “Ghost Protector of NYC,” and that’s just fine for the more grounded sensibilities.

Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood’s Moon Knight is a strong continuation of the Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey incarnation, one which adds their own unique characteristics, both aesthetically and thematically. It’s delightful, refreshing, and just plain cool. I think that Wood may have finally found his home in the Marvel Universe, applying his outsider ethos and indie voice to a property with mainstream appeal and rich potential. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey would have been a tough act for anyone to follow, but Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood have done it with grace and style. Grade A+.


9.03.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your first and only destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Moon Knight #7 (Marvel): There’s a small selection of really choice books out this week, including the raucous fun of God Hates Astronauts #1 (Image), Jason Aaron's gritty homecoming tale in Southern Bastards #4 (Image), and the luscious-looking Concrete Park: Respect #1 (Dark Horse), but the clear standout is Moon Knight #7, with the new creative team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, with colorist Jordie Bellaire and cover artist Declan Shalvey holding over. Honestly, and I say this with all due respect, I think most people are just hoping the new team doesn't fuck things up, it was a magic formula, and I was initially pleasantly surprised and then quickly blown away by what they pull off. Wood and Smallwood delightfully thread a very tiny needle here, managing to provide a respectful continuation of what Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey laid down, while still stamping it with their own unique style. Wood grounds the White Knight hard in a noticeably present NYC bubbling with social tension, while Smallwood brings his sensational A-game with layout ingenuity and panel design. If page 20 alone doesn't make you believe in the dynamic abilities of the medium, then it's time to find a new hobby. It’s very rare that you have one creative team that’s can’t miss, followed by a different creative team on the same title that’s equally can’t miss, but these guys have done it.  


The Massive #26 @ Comics Bulletin [Advance Review]

I wrote an Advance Review of this week's The Massive #26 over at Comics Bulletin.