8.22.2015

8.26.15 [#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 top pick for the week goes to They’re Not Like Us #7 (Image) by Eric Stephenson, Simon Gane, and Jordie Bellaire. I’m a big fan of these millennial takes on modernizing the basic X-Men concept of latent adolescent power manifestation, and with Gane’s intricate line work this really feels like something special.

I’ll also be checking out the following titles this week:

Prez #3 (DC)
East of West #20 (Image)
Low #9 (Image)
Stringers #1 (Oni Press)
Lando #3 (Marvel)
Hacktivist Volume 2 #2 (Archaia)
We Can Never Go Home #4 (Black Mask)
Scalped Book Two Deluxe Edition HC (DC/Vertigo)

8.15.2015

8.19.15 [#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.

It’s a small week for me, but there’s still a handful of great picks. I’m most excited for Manifest Destiny #16 (Image) by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni. If the adventures of Lewis & Clark exploring the supernatural frontier doesn’t do it for you, might I also suggest:

Astro City #26 (DC/Vertigo)
Trees #12 (Image)
Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare #1 (Comix Tribe)
If You Steal (Fantagraphics)

8.08.2015

8.12.15 [#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.

It’s easy to select the #BookOfTheWeek when Starve #3 (Image) is out from Brian Wood, Danijel Zezelj, and Dave Stewart. In some ways it’s the pinnacle of the Brian Wood creative ethos and instantly became one of the most unique books on the stands in recent memory, certainly a contender for the Best of 2015 lists that critics are already starting to consider. I mean, look at that fucking cover! There's Gavin Cruikshank like Prospero weaving his magic wand on that little island, bathed in syrupy ink as he slathers the head of a swine with some concoction of rosemary, thyme, and balsamic with the studio lights popping in the background! Where else are you gonna' find something like that!? 

There’s also Rebels #5 (Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Andrea Mutti, and Jordie Bellaire, which is another example of something the writer does so well, crafting rich historical fiction that stays true to the times without being didactic, is engaging without being sensational white-washed nostalgia, and still plays relevant to modern social concerns. Each individual aspect of that last sentence is difficult to pull off, so wrapping all of them up in one package with the rich detail of an artist like Andrea Mutti and his gritty uneven line work is truly a thing to behold. I personally like the quirk of Starve, but you could certainly make the case for Rebels as one of the Best of 2015 as well. Wood is having a helluva year, and there’s still more to come.

It’s a great week with a lot of diverse material being offered, so I’m also going to check out the following titles;

Stumptown Vol. 3 #7 (Oni Press)
Letter 44 #19 (Oni Press)
Death Sentence: London #3 (Titan)
Star Wars: Lando #2 (Marvel)
Arcadia #4 (Boom! Studios)
Lantern City #4 (Archaia)
Descender #6 (Image)
Drifter #7 (Image)
Injection #4 (Image)
The Beauty #1 (Image)
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 (Image)

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.