7.31.2015

8.05.15 [#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.

I'm really looking forward to the Bowery Boys: Our Fathers HC (Dark Horse), featuring art by Ian Bertram, an artist I quickly became fascinated by after seeing a quirky fill-in issue of Batman Eternal. Bertram has this sinewy Frank Quitely thing happening, but plumps it up with manga influence and thicker more uneven line weights that add a lot of emotional oomph, so I'll gladly check out his stylings on this creator owned joint.


There's a mix of a few newer books and quite a few other old-reliables out this week that I'll be taking a look at, including the following;

This Damned Band #1 (Dark Horse)
Airboy #3 (Image)
Deadly Class #15 (Image)
The Fuse #13 (Image)
The Humans #7 (Image)
Jupiter's Circle #5 (Image)
Outcast #11 (Image)
Sex #23 (Image)
We Stand On Guard #2 (Image)
The Wicked + The Divine #13 (Image)
Darth Vader #8 (Marvel)
Blackcross #5 (Dynamite Entertainment)
The Bunker #13 (Oni Press)
Broken World #3 (Boom! Studios)
Midnighter #3 (DC)

The Wasteland Intro That Would Have Been

So, here's the introduction for this week's Wasteland Vol. 11: Floodland (Oni Press) that I pitched, but didn't end up getting used for one reason or another. 


When I bought Wasteland #1 at San Diego Comic Con in 2006, I had never heard of Antony Johnston or Christopher Mitten. That’s my fault.

But, I had another skill which didn’t fail me.  It sounds horrible to admit, but when you’re a grizzled old comic book critic like me who’s been at it for over 10 years, you actually can start to judge a book by its cover. With about a 97% accuracy rate, I can tell instantly if I’m going to like a book or not with a mere glance.

I knew I was going to like Wasteland immediately.

There was the post-apocalyptic drifter. There were the scattered tribes of people struggling to survive.  There was the mysterious hook of an event only whispered about in laconic tones as “The Big Wet.” Then there was the downright dangerous art of Chris Mitten, full of sharp lines and even sharper deeds. Mitten’s lines played like flinty ink on crumpled parchment, illustrating a lost manuscript chronicling The End Of The World As We Know It.

That’s all it took. I chatted briefly with Antony, Chris, and (then) cover artist Ben Templesmith, got my copy of #1 signed, and went about my way. My instincts were right. They say that “good” sci-fi begins with nothing more than a compelling “what if?” premise, and Wasteland followed suit. In a tradition of high-quality, high-interest sci-fi, it was also an examination of evolving social paradigms. It was a parable about lost opportunities. It was a general warning about man’s ability to muck about in things we don’t fully comprehend, that precarious preoccupation with “could we?” instead of “should we?”

It wasn’t just a cautionary tale of apocalyptic proportions; it was ultimately a humanitarian story about what it means to simply exist on Planet Earth.

There’s been some terrific artists who’ve graced the pages of Wasteland over the years (Justin Greenwood, Carla Speed McNeil, and Sandy Jarrell, to name a few favorites), but the most prominent is the co-creator of the series, Christopher Mitten. Chris is a genuinely nice guy, and you’d never know it judging solely by the disturbing images he likes to draw. His visuals move fluidly between a stripped-down abstract sensibility and more ornate design elements full of pattern and texture, revealing emotional truths.

The work you’ll find from Antony and Chris is a true collaborative effort, a partnership which has now transcended Wasteland and marched forward to other projects. You see, other artists have a relatively easy go at the craft. The writer will create a script with instructions like: “Draw Batman.” “Draw a city.” “Draw an explosion.” But, these things are known commodities.

Antony worked with Chris to create the unknown, imagery that was altogether foreign. His scripts often said: “Draw Sand-Eaters.” “Draw The Dog Tribes.” “Draw The End of The Goat-Fucking World.” These things simply didn’t exist. There was no sensory point of reference. Chris had to invent them. They were wholly conjured from the arcane phantasmagoria of Chris Mitten’s mind.

The term “world-building” gets thrown around a lot in the industry. There’s no mistaking that Antony is one of the best practitioners working today. Antony’s characters talk to each other, not at the audience. Antony won’t define acronyms for the reader. It’s maddening at times. With a Tolkien-esque affinity for languages, he infuses his worlds with degenerated speech patterns, new colloquialisms, and cryptic clues that are never spelled out for the audience. The answers are doled out naturally over time. His characters will typically operate under the guise of old rivalries, entrenched dogma, and enticing back stories that take place long before events in the book. As readers, we connect the dots through casual conversations and inference, not staged monologues which advance the plot or explain motivations.

If exposition is a poison, Antony’s scripts are the antidote.

There’s also an expansive quality to the writing that makes the world feel as if it extends beyond the panel borders. The way he writes is about long-term vs. short-term gain. He invests time front-loading the world with research and maps and histories we might never see fully rendered on the page, but it’s also an investment in an the audience’s ability to parse meaning from an immersive experience. Antony makes a foundational assumption that his readers are a fairly intelligent lot. It’s an unspoken agreement between creator and consumer, an interactive process which engages the reader and allows a sense of discovery. That’s the key.

Now it’s time to discover it for yourself, here at The End Of All Things.

I’ve reviewed all 60 issues of Wasteland over the years. At this point, there’s nothing left for me to say. There’s no review. There’s no critique. There’s no clever insight. There’s just this:

Wasteland exits stage left as one of the great modern epics.

Justin Giampaoli
San Diego
July, 2015

7.23.2015

7.29.15 [#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.

The book of the week will be Lazarus #18 (Image) by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. It’s the best book coming out of Image Comics at the moment, and certainly a contender for best current ongoing series from any publisher, period. The House of Creator Owned also has Casanova: Acedia #3 (Image), Copperhead #9 (Image), Low #8 (Image), Sex Criminals #11 (Image), Invisible Republic #5 (Image), and Southern Bastards #10 (Image). It’s a good week for Image Comics!

I’ll also check out Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #8 (IDW), which is running late, but John Barber and Tom Scioli’s nostalgic madness is always a treat, and The Shrinking Man #1 (IDW), which looks interesting. There’s also Hacktivist Vol. 2 #1 (Archaia) by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Marcus To, a book which I picked up an advance copy of at #SDCC, and it’s as strong as the first, if a little more tightly focused geographically.

On the trade front, my daughter would be quite upset if I didn’t mention The Baby-Sitters Club Volume 2: The Truth About Stacey (Scholastic/Graphix) by Raina Telgemeier. I picked up the first volume at #SDCC for her, and had a great chat with Telgemeier the morning after her Eisner Award win. My trade pick is Wasteland Volume 11: Floodland (Oni Press), the final volume of this epic series by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten. It’s superb artistry on display, finally explaining the post-apocalyptic world of "The Big Wet." 

7.16.2015

7.22.15 [#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.

Well, with one big exception this is kind of a dud week for me, with nothing on my regular pull list that I’m terribly excited about. The exception I’ll lead with is Fante Bukowski (Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver. In my mind, Noah is a wunderkind creator (chronicling our inability to reconcile reality with "The Great Wish") who is essentially the R. Crumb of his generation and sits comfortably in my Top 3 Indie Creators arrangement alongside his peers Tom Neely and Julia Gfrorer. Fellow CB’er Daniel Elkin and I already picked up an advance copy of Fante Bukowski at the Fantagraphics booth at SDCC and it’s one of the first things I read from my con haul. It’s a representative sampling of Noah’s strong work, with the added benefit of a more experimental denouement than you’d expect to see from this creator.

Other than that, there’s a few books I’ll probably peek at out of passionate ambivalence that are in the “maybe” category. I’ve been having fun sampling all of the New New 52 offerings from DC, so I’ll probably look at Cyborg #1 (DC), if only to hate-read and point out what I don’t like about it. Unlike most of the New New DC books, I genuinely liked the first issue of this one, so I’ll also look at Prez #2 (DC) to see if it holds. Chuck Dixon and Esteve Polls have Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #3 (IDW) out, and over at Image Comics there’s C.O.W.L. #11 (Image) which I think is one of the last issues, if not the final, along with RUNLOVEKILL #4 (Image) something I initially liked, but have really cooled on with subsequent issues.

I haven’t found this series to be particularly strong or interesting or even really all that necessary if you watch the show and glean the same stuff from it, but my kids enjoy it, so I’ll pick up Kanan: The Last Padawan #4 (Marvel), and I might also check out Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot #1 (Valiant). I tuned out of the Valiant Universe a while back out of plain ol’ boredom, but I picked up the initial installment of Book of Death and liked what I saw. There was a certain level of high stakes that felt genuine, which means I’m either falling for a typical crossover event like a sucker, or the gravitas present might actually result in something consequential happening.

If you’re in the mood for a trade, there’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (DC/Vertigo) by Denise Mina and Andrea Mutti. I haven’t paid close attention to these moody Stieg Larsson adaptations, but I like them when I come across them, and you should always promote the work of your collaborators. I believe this is the third and final installment of the international bestseller. There’s also G.I. Joe: The Fall of G. I. Joe Vol. 2 (IDW), a very strong series by Karen Traviss and Steve Kurth (covers by the terrific designer Jeffrey Veregge), which focuses on relevant geopolitics as much as super-spy bang-bang, and unfortunately seems to be getting lost amid some of the other lackluster titles in the franchise. 

7.14.2015

7.15.15 [#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.

The week after #SDCC is usually a little slim after publishers dump all their latest high profile projects and announcements into the bazaar, and that’s a good thing because I’m exhausted! It was a blast rolling with the Comics Bulletin crew this year as Jason Sacks, Chase Magnett, Daniel Elkin, and I scoured the con floor, caught up with creators for interviews and networking, hit the after parties, saw old friends, pursued our diverse individual projects, and made #BarCon and #FoodCon just as much of a priority as the comics.

As usual, I had fun playing San Diego Tour Guide and hitting some of my favorite spots. We had lunch and drinks at Queenstown Public House! We had tacos and horchata at Lucha Libre! We stopped in for a drink at The Regal Beagle! If there’s an Eisner Award for drinks, I’d bestow it upon the refreshing and smooth Cucumber Gin Gimlet at The Lion’s Share and the “Mother’s Ruin” Punch Bowl at Craft & Commerce for the name alone and the sheer spectacle of a big block of ice floating in a bowl of alcohol. Anyway, there’s really no better crew to roll with at #SDCC.

Comics! Let’s go with an oldie-but-a-goodie this week and spotlight Astro City #25 (DC/Vertigo) by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson. Busiek is a real-deal veteran writer with a diverse body of genre work who’s capable of capturing the type of authenticity that lesser writers often try to unsuccessfully emulate. Astro City is perhaps his opus, a title that’s been a constant through decades of ups and the downs in the industry, a creator owned book before that term became cool again, and favors deep-dive examination of the personal and hidden corners of a shared superhero universe concept, sometimes to grand deconstructionist results.

I’ll also recommend Drifter #6 (Image) by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, a great sci-fi romp that’s as insightful about character as it is wondrous about setting and design. There’s Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Trees #11 (Image), which often goes in unexpected ways, focusing on the socio-political implications and individuals relationship dynamics of the setting instead of the high-concept hook that sets up the actual world. Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque also continue their West Wing meets Independence Day sci-fi affair in Letter 44 #18 (Oni Press).

The only other book that caught my eye was Godzilla In Hell #1 (IDW), which I’ll pick up as long as Godzilla: Half Century War alum James Stokoe is involved, an attitude that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series because I think he’s only doing the first issue. 

7.02.2015

7.08.15 [#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.

All eyes will be on San Diego Comic-Con International this week, so don’t let the spectacle of the big dance distract you from so many great books coming out! Brian Wood fans can rejoice because there will be not one, but two Creator Owned projects hitting the shelves from this acclaimed writer. We have both Starve #2 (Image) and Rebels #4 (Dark Horse), the former chronicling celebrity chef Gavin Cruikshank’s wayward identity quest and attempts at familial reconciliation brought to life by the sensational team of series co-owners Danijel Zezelj and Dave Stewart, while the latter seamlessly laces together family drama, historical fiction, and the narrative thrust of the rebellion against the British Crown in rugged Colonial America, all depicted by Italian artist Andrea Mutti.

Star Wars fans can rejoice because we’ll also be getting another new mini-series set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and this time it might actually be good (ba-dum-tsh!). It’s no secret I haven’t really liked the mediocre crop of Disney/Marvel/LucasFilm Mega Corporation comics thus far (Princess Leia is a pointless inconsequential bore, Darth Vader is an out of character Frankenstein that cobbles together recycled sci-fi concepts, Kanan: The Last Padawan is an extremely pale offshoot of the stellar animated series that never quite manages to get going and actually do anything we can’t already glean from the show, and the main Star Wars title feels like a phoned-in piece of fanfic with occasional off-model art irregularities), but with the very respectable team of Charles Soule and Alex Maleev, I’m hoping Star Wars: Lando #1 (Marvel) might be strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark and do justice to my favorite SW character. C’mon guys, make me say “Hell-o, what have we here?”

Image Comics fans will likely rejoice because they’ll be able to find at least one of their favorite books in the crop that’s out this week, with Saga #30 (Image) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Black Science #16 (Image) by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera, and Injection #3 (Image) by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. These are all solid books, but I’m most excited to check out Black Science. With the writer recently announcing that he’s stepping away from Marvel Comics (a couple of which were absolutely fantastic, even achieving classic run status, I’m looking at you Uncanny X-Force) to focus exclusively on Creator Owned projects, it feels like Remender is now “all in” on original creations and will be making even bolder choices than he has been, upping the sense of consequence and willingness to deviate from the indoctrinated cyclical storytelling approaches at the larger publishers. Good luck, Rick!

Fans of some of the other non-Marvel or DC Comics publishers can also rejoice. There’s Strange Fruit #1 (Boom! Studios) by Mark Waid and J.G. Jones. Waid is a writer whose older work I tend to like more (I find his modern stuff to be on the wordy side), but with the time period and setting and literary sensibility advertised in this project, this could be something I’m really into. Archie #1 (Archie Comics) is relaunching their flagship series for their 75th Anniversary, also written by Mark Waid, with art by Fiona Staples. There’s no less than 22 variant covers being offered (and this isn’t counting retailer exclusive variants), which seems quite excessive, but when you reach 75, maybe we’ll cut you a little slack on the celebratory speculation-driving cash-grab. There’s Death Sentence: London #2 (Titan Comics), which has always been a little sleeper hit, Lantern City #3 (Boom!/Archaia) which does a fun world-build and some compelling design work, I might check out Negative Space #1 (Dark Horse) by Ryan K. Lindsay and Owen Gieni, both of whom I like for their contributions on other projects, and I may also peek my head into the Star Trek/Green Lantern #1 (IDW) crossover series, which is just enough of an unlikely pairing that it might be great (I’m suddenly nostalgic for the old Stormwatch/Aliens crossover!)

If you need some collected editions to adorn your bookshelf, you too can rejoice! I highly recommend They’re Not Like Us Vol. 1: Black Holes For The Young (Image) by Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane. It’s a fantastic reimaging of the basic X-Men premise (latent adolescent power manifestation) modernized for disaffected millennials trying to establish both an extended family and a sense of purpose. The art is incredibly detailed and emotive, the kind of thing you just want to stare at and pore over. There’s the Godzilla: Half Century War HC (IDW) by James Stokoe, which takes an introspective approach to monster mayhem, chronicling a once-young soldier’s experiences fighting off the behemoth decade after decade, with lavish illustrations on the level of someone like Geoff Darrow. San Diego’s premiere comics publishers also has the Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland HC (IDW), equally impressive with the bold clean line work of Gabriel Rodriguez, and with the help of writer Eric Shanower, it manages to pay homage to the original and capture its sense of ethereal wonder. Lastly, I’ll probably also check out the High Crimes HC (Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa, something I missed in digital form, but looks right up my alley and comes highly recommended by sources I trust.

Shameless Plug Alert: If anyone’s looking for me at #SDCC, my base of operations is usually with my friend Ryan Claytor at the Elephant Eater Comics booth, located in the Small Press Pavilion, right across the aisle from Oni Press at that big intersection. You know the one.

6.29.2015

DMZ Book Four [Reminder]


Here’s your reminder that DMZ Book Four (Deluxe Edition Hardcover) is out this Wednesday, July 1st. You should buy it. This volume contains 384 pages (issues 45 to 59), features an original cover by Brian Wood, guest artists including Danijel Zezelj, Andrea Mutti, and David Lapham, and is only $29.99. It’s an oversized hardcover with 24 pages of bonus content hand-curated by me, including an extended conversation between me and Brian Wood, an interview with cover artist John Paul Leon, a profile interview with colorist Jeromy Cox, and tons of concept art, cover designs, and character sketches.

There will be 5 hardcovers total, with an additional book planned for release every 6 months or so. In development at SyFy for a TV adaptation, DMZ ran for 72 issues from 2005 to 2011, centering on would-be journalist Matthew Roth and his tumultuous time in war torn New York City, under siege during the Second American Civil War. For existing fans, this is the definitive format you’ll want to own. We’re throwing everything we have at it. For curious fans, this is the perfect time to jump in and own the ultimate edition, with the benefit of critical analysis and “director’s commentary.”

6.26.2015

7.01.15 [#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.

Big Week. Huge Week. I’m really excited about Airboy #2 (Image) by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle. The first issue was funny and meta and incredibly well-drawn, with the type of exaggerated reality that illuminates fact, so I hope it continues just as strong as it began. The House of Creator Owned is also offering Deadly Class #14 (Image) by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, certainly in a three-way heat for best Remender book this year along with Black Science (my pick) and Low, The Humans #6 (Image) by Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely, No Mercy #4 (Image) by the terrific team of Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil, Outcast #10 (Image) by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, the Punks CBLDF Special (Image) by Josh Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain, The Wicked + The Divine #12 (Image), and one of the long-awaited new Brian K. Vaughan books, We Stand On Guard #1 (Image) with artist Steve Skroce. That’s a ton already!

Boom! Studios has been coming on extremely strong lately, as evidenced by this week’s offerings, including The Spire #1 (Boom!), a sprawling new 8-issue series by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely that already has people talking, Arcadia #3 (Boom!) by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer, which is probably my favorite new Boom! series if you forced me to pick, and Broken World #2 (Boom!), the second installment of Frank J. Barbiere and Christopher Peterson’s grungy sci-fi that flips the typical post-apocalyptic set-up. There’s also The Bunker #12 (Oni Press) by Josh Fialkov and Joe Infurnari! There’s 18 Days #1 (Graphic India) by Grant Morrison and Jeevan Kang, for the introductory price of just $1! There’s Onyx #1 (IDW) by Chris Ryall and Gabriel Rodriguez! If the Locke & Key and Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland alum doing a new project wasn’t enticing enough, Ryall will also be doing a signing on Wednesday 7/1 from 9-12 at my LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego, so I’ll see you there!

If you’re one of those Marvel and DC holdouts, the best I can do is recommend Midnighter #2 (DC) by Steve Orlando and ACO, which sort of defies the traditional DC house style and is a standout among the new launches for including some stylish and memorable visual layouts that take a key from the Matt Fraction and David Aja Immortal Iron Fist era, using a protagonist whose personality, sexuality, and general plot mechanics feel organic and don’t come off like forced marketing devices daring you to cool-dad #hashtag it on the Twitters.

If you need some quality material to adorn your bookshelf, you’ve come to the right place! There’s the DMZ Book Four: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC/Vertigo), collecting issues 45-59 of this stellar series by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli. At $29.99 for 384 pages, it’s a deal, and this volume also contains great guest artist contributions from folks like Andrea Mutti, David Lapham, and Danijel Zezelj, as well as (Full Disclosure) interviews with the creative team conducted by yours truly, along with hand-selected bonus content including concept art and character designs. You might also be interested in The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 2: Fandemonium (Image) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, or the Supreme: Blue Rose TPB (Image) by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay, collecting all seven issues of this gorgeous book. You should also definitely pick up The Autumnlands Vol. 1: Tooth & Claw (Image) by Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey, easily one of the best new series of the year, and one of the best deals too, collecting issues 1-6 for just $9.99.