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Thor: God of Thunder #1 (Marvel): [This Title Was Not Released This Week] After also seeing some great reviews, my LCS proprietor talked me into checking this out and I’m glad I did. On the very first page, it was obvious that Jason Aaron’s Thor is going to be more Conan than Avenger. I like that. And if you can’t get, say, Jerome Opena on art, well the next best thing is probably Esad Ribic and Dean White. Their stuff is really slick. Thor is basically hunting a god-killer in a time-spanning murder mystery that goes in all directions at once, but never loses focus. It takes place in the past, in the present, and in the future, on Earth, in Asgard, in deep space, and throughout time. On rare occasion, the dense text could feel a little laborious (line after line about the Lost Gods of Indigarr, for example), but with stellar art and a mostly engaging plot, this really felt new and fresh. Confession: I’ve never really given two shits about Thor. I’ve tried runs old and new; I tried Fraction’s work. The only thing that ever really worked for me was the way Kurt Busiek and George Perez handled him in their old Avengers run, which is echoed here with a choice line. I don’t know, Jason Aaron may have done the seemingly impossible and made me care about what happens in the next issue of Thor. Grade A.
Stumptown Volume 2 #3 (Oni Press): [This Title Was Not Released This Week] My LCS finally got this in after some type of shipping mishap that was beyond control. I generally enjoyed the issue, but it was far from perfect. Dex is still investigating a missing guitar, which just happens to show up on her front door step, begging the questions of identity and motivation for whoever returned it. There’s also strong evidence suggesting the case was being used for smuggling something other than its intended contents. Rucka’s script was fairly seamless, but a couple spots up front struck me as being really expositional. It felt like there was a long delay between the second and third issues and Rucka was intentionally trying to reload the audience’s memory on where we were. Lines like “That’s her guitar, isn’t it? Mim Bracca’s guitar? Mim from Tailhook? Her guitar?” stick out as the kind that nobody actually speaks with in real life, they only exist in Aaron Sorkin material to take a big stylish info-dump all over the audience. Except for a horrible looking revolver at the very end, Southworth’s pencils continue to grow. He’s able to pull a lot of emotional content out of the faces and I really liked a scene where Dex just sits quietly in her living room, staring at the guitar case on her coffee table, rolling things over in her mind. Renzi’s colors can be a little flat in spots, but they mostly shine, like in the aforementioned scene. There’s something about how he handles shadows and light-sourcing that I really like. There’s also a very smudgy inky look (yes, that is the technical term) on some of the faces, not sure if this is art or coloring, that gives a really nice effect. Stumptown is the kind of series that I can pick apart critically if I wanted to, but in terms of sheer enjoyment I’m always excited to read it, and I’m glad I’m pot-committed to continue supporting it in singles. Grade B+.
Comeback #1 (Image): The best thing about Comeback is the one-two punch of Michael Walsh’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s colors, the end result feeling like you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of Sean Phillips. The adverts say this is about a secret agency named “Reconnect” (though that name appears not once in the first issue), which can, during a limited window of about 2+ months, save a loved one from impending death by going back in time and plucking them out of the time-stream somehow, but it’ll cost you millions. The actual science or physics of this very different kind of travel agency is obviously very murky, but even the slim attempts at techno-babble weren’t very interesting, something something we can try again to grab a person, hide him, for… something? On top of that, there are two primary stories, one about a man whose family wanted to save him that got botched, another about a man wanting to save his wife from a car accident, then there’s someone following someone, but I was never quite sure how Mark, Mr. Ingram, Mr. Fields, Hargreaves, Terrance, and on and on were meant to connect or who was who and what they were doing. The art was nice enough, but the lack of narrative clarity was a showstopper for me. Grade B-.
Bleeding Cool Magazine #1 (Avatar Press): This is a physically *heavy* magazine, which initially makes me feel like there’s good value for the $4.99 price tag. Unfortunately, for me, there was very little content I found interesting. Your mileage may vary. The gossip/rumor section was full of vapid humor and the deathmatch section was very shallow and fanboyish. The Shadowman spotlight (and entire hype around Valiant as a whole) is something I’m really tired of. I think it’s a really cool story how this company restarted, but I just don’t like any of their products, yet everyone seems to be buying into it and jumping on the critical bandwagon. Ditto Cyber Force. Extremely cool that we’re getting 5 issues Kickstarter’d for free, but they’re just not very good. Don’t care about an Alan Moore interview. Don’t care about what Tim Burton’s doing. I thought the Mike Richardson article about Dark Horse taking on superheroes again was nice, so I’ll give that a pass. It was nice to see some reviews (especially for some indie thing called The Red Ten I’d never heard of), but nothing else looked interesting. Don’t care about Judge Dredd. Don’t care about something called Charismagic. Don’t care about a price guide. The big draw for me was the "Top 100 Most Powerful People In Comics" list. I’m not one of those people that’s going to quibble with the list and rewrite it (too much anyway!). You can obviously cherry-pick this with personal agendas and different rankings. For the most part, I thought it was fairly diverse and included a good mix of personnel from different sectors in the industry. It is a *very* mainstream list though. There’s really no mention of small press publishers. I would have definitely included Dylan Williams and the legacy of Sparkplug Comic Books. There’s no mention of ownership of small regional indie-centric shows like BCGF. If you’re going to bother putting the “Anonymous Register Jock” as an entry, you might as well include me, that’s the “Anonymous Blogger,” on the list. Collectively, the tastemakers who have some influence over public opinion and what’s being purchased. Deeper on the financial end, I would have definitely included whoever owns the Comics Guarantee Corporation (aka: CGC). They changed the industry, for good or bad, in terms of collecting as a hobby and the associated inflated dollar amounts changing hands. Being an agent of change is powerful. I might have included a creator like Brian Wood as an example of creative paradigm shift; not everyone writes Conan, Star Wars, multiple X-Men titles, and a whole host of critically acclaimed creator-owned series, a model that doesn’t rely on exclusive contract. I might have included an editor like, say, Will Dennis, basically the guy responsible for the last wave of Vertigo hits, American Vampire, DMZ, Northlanders, Scalped, etc. I’ll stop rewriting the list there. Lastly, sorry to be that guy, but if you put yourself on a list like this, you just lose some credibility with me. You can either report the “news,” or you can be the “news.” It’s hard to do both objectively. Yeah, I used those quotes intentionally since I’m not sure if the intent is to be hard-hitting journalism or just light-hearted entertainment, especially with the interactive signature gimmick. There’s something about the look of the interior that feels odd to me as well. I think it’s the font size, or font style, or the way it’s justified on the page, or just the layouts in general? It feels like, I don’t know, the early incarnation of Wizard Magazine, with a sort of low-fi desktop publishing aesthetic. The one or two times I’ve briefly said hello to Rich Johnston at cons, he’s struck me as super humble and amiable. I bear him and his venture no ill will personally. I think a print magazine is a gaping hole in the market that ought to be filled. It seems like he’s been doing at least some anecdotal market research and is somewhat open to feedback. There's clearly energy behind this attempt. I’m just not sold that this is the vehicle to fill that gap as it currently exists. It’s admittedly one person’s opinion with very quirky taste, but it certainly doesn’t represent the segments of the market that I feel like I identify with as a fan or as a critic. Grade C.