X-Men #3 [The Wood Pile]

X-Men #3 (Marvel): I had the chance to chat briefly with artist Olivier Coipel at SDCC this year. Now, Coipel doesn’t know who the heck I am, so I just asked him point blank: “What’s it like working with Brian Wood?” He instantly beamed, explaining how Brian is very much an artist’s artist (err, artist’s writer?) in that he’s always careful to provide plenty of reference to the artist in his scripts. He never just drops an artist cold into the work. I’d imagine that’s pretty helpful given the noticeable effort to make this a more global action book. Wood has explained before how he’s grown tired of books from a strictly American POV (for example, The Massive after spending so much time deep in American politics with DMZ), so the globetrotting flair for this dust-up with Arkea, from sly mentions of Mutant Mossad Agent Sabra to the landing at an airport in Budapest, is a nice result. I seemed to be very conscious of color in this issue. On the very first page, the sheen on Jubilee and Rachel’s faces, in particular, looked downright lifelike thanks to Laura Martin. It lends a certain realistic urgency to the story that would otherwise be lacking with more garish "cartoony" coloring. Later, I absolutely loved the visual style of Hellion, especially his uniform design, and the color display when he was using his powers. Essentially, Arkea is trying to build an army she can control, utilizing the latest advancements in neuro-prosthetics, emphasizing the kind of future forward technology you should be dealing with in an X-Men book. The core team lead by Storm is off dealing with that, while Kitty stays back at the school to deal with another situation. The scariest part of Kitty’s challenge, aided by the subtle humor of Bling, glad-to-see-her-again Pixie, and the aforementioned Hellion, et al, is that they’re dealing with some type of Trojan Horse style bomb, the effects of which can’t be immediately seen with the naked eye, almost like some sort of EMP. One of the things I guess I do when I’m bored at work(?) is look up random stuff and I decided to Google the name of Jubilee’s baby “Shogo” to see if I found anything interesting. The Japanese translation is “one’s ministry,” it’s also the name of the front man of a Japanese rock group, as well as a video game, and infers upon the child that they can be “spiritually intense,” and can either “sting or charm.” FWIW. This issue is really packed with good stuff. I like how Betsy just has Arkea point blank, with yet another slick aesthetic manifestation of her telekinetic powers. That leads to a cutaway from the action that has a very cinematic flair to it and requires that the reader provide some closure. Ultimately, we get to an(other) interesting place with Storm. In Brian Wood and David Lopez’s (who’s coming on for the next arc) previous X-Men run, we saw Storm making command decisions that were at times at odds with people like Scott Summers and Colossus. Here we see some tension brewing with Rachel, which Rogue asks her about in the epilogue scene. I don’t necessarily think this is a major plot point or anything, but I find it fascinating that Wood continues to include small philosophical skirmishes like this as evidence of the general trials of leadership. In my experience, good leaders are decision-makers who rarely make easy, quick, or popular decisions that end up pleasing everyone. At the end of the day, Brian Wood’s X-Men is full of intelligence, daring action, and interpersonal dynamics, which is essentially the perfect trifecta of what any X-Men comic should be. Grade A+.


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7.24.13 [Weekly Reviews]

"Weekly Reviews" is a column brought to you with generous support from our 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.

Lazarus #2: Previews Exclusive (Image): I picked up this advanced edition at SDCC so I’ve had a couple extra days to ruminate on it, and I think it might even be better than the first. While we already understand the premise laid out in the first issue, the second pushes hard on world-building and intensifies the stakes. I really enjoyed how Greg Rucka positions some of the Carlyle children almost in a Corleone style trifecta. There’s a young, different one, who’s favored, in the “Michael” role, a brash hothead like Sonny, and a more passive Fredo type. There’s the added twist of Forever’s true place in the family line, as well as the set-up for a confrontation with a Morray Family Lazarus. The backmatter includes a riveting timeline running vertically down the pages that fills in much of the backstory of how this world came to be amid a financial apocalypse and how the crime families rose to power. Michael Lark grounds the whole thing in a realistic style, creating a believable reality, with visual touches like the Hollywood sign now being reduced to just an H, O, O, and D, mirroring exactly what the burnt out urban area looks like. Grade A+.

The Massive #14 (Dark Horse): As the Kapital approaches NYC, a rogue US Navy faction is trying to forcibly arrest Callum Israel. There’s a line in here: “We are the military. We are America.” that’s so devastating at depicting what it’s all devolved into while the only legit gov’t has supposedly relocated to relatively higher ground in Denver. Callum knows that an aircraft carrier group isn’t supposed to be patrolling the coast and is ready to call their bluff, while Ryan is increasingly becoming more of a player, and the Georg flashbacks (not to mention his present day intervention) make him one of the most fascinating characters to emerge in an already supremely interesting cast. Grade A.

Thumbprint #2 (IDW): Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, and Vic Malhotra, for my money, are delivering one of the best and most memorable mini-series of the year, which seems to be operating just under the radar of the typical comic book consumer. Mallory is walking this fine line between penance for her past sins and trying to absolve herself of her past and just move forward. Artistically, Malhotra reminds me of artists like Matthew Southworth, Michael Lark, or David Aja, contemporaries who are operating with a noir vibe to their style. The aesthetic is back and forth between the gritty present day and the intense psychological drive of the flashbacks from the Middle East desert campaigns. Grade A.

Harbinger #14 (Valiant): This is basically the tail end of the Harbinger Wars event, wrapping up the confrontation between multiple factions, while also completing the Toyo Harada “origin” flashback sequences in the process. Pete and his Renegades absolutely get their asses handed to them by the converging forces of Bloodshot, Project Rising Spirit, H.A.R.D. Corps, and the Harbinger Foundation. Within the space of about a year, Joshua Dysart has cleverly crafted a post-modern self-aware treatise on young super-powered adolescents that has all the raw emotional power of the original X-Men in the 1960’s. The difference being that there just aren’t any pleasant endings. The fight sequences are chaotic and messy and never go according to plan. At one point, Faith says “It’s not like the X-Men at all!!” You’re goddamn right, Joshua Dysart. You’re goddamn right. Grade A.


SDCC [Capsule Reviews]

I started to feel a little guilty that there hadn’t been any new content on the site for a week, so I decided to post these quick capsule reviews, which are essentially just extensions of the micro-reviews I’ve been blasting out on Twitter. This is roughly a third of the floppies that were shoved into my hands at San Diego Comic Con 2013. Enjoy.

Letter 44 #1: Black & White Preview Variant (Oni Press): I fell in love with Strange Attractors and was eager to sample more original work from the writer. As far as I’m concerned, Charles Soule delivered one of the belles of the ball with this book, which is an extremely clever hybrid of The West Wing and The X-Files, in a way that’s completely different than Saucer Country, which was pitch-billed as the same. That said, maybe this is more The West Wing meets Apollo 18. It involves very thinly disguised analogues of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, with the former succeeding the latter, and receiving a heartfelt reflective letter, as is the presidential custom. In it, the “W” character explains the unseen challenges of the role, including the fact that, oh by the way, I know you all thought I was an idiot, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of the country, I entered the country into multiple foreign wars so that we’d have battle hardened troops to thwart an alien invasion being detected somewhere in the solar system by a covert manned space mission, good luck! Gulp. It’s socially relevant, shifts perspectives, and already offered twists. It’s fantastic! The full color regular series doesn’t come out until October, which now feels like an excruciating wait after so deeply enjoying this preview copy.

Ten Grand #4: Convention Exclusive (Image): I’ve been really impressed with previous installments of this book, and it’s still visually enthralling, but for some reason this issue started to wear thin on me. There were a couple of typos up front, some dense exposition about the “rules” of the occult in this world, and I already feel as if the narrative is becoming both a) a little repetitive, and b) a little convoluted as to who is doing what to whom and why. Your mileage, of course, may vary. The “actual” regular fourth issue isn’t due out for a couple of weeks, so you’re way ahead of the curve if you snagged a copy of this at SDCC last week.

Fatale #15: Ghost Variant (Image): I tuned out of Fatale, and Criminal, and much of Ed Brubaker’s recent work for that matter, so it was a little awkward chatting with him about this series when he signed my copy. It’s perfectly well executed and Sean Phillips’ style has never looked better (much more refined and less “blocky” than the old WildStorm stuff I remember him working on), but I’m just personally burned out on the whole noir thriller vibe. The Darwyn Cooke cover on this edition is gorgeous, though.

Sidekick #1: Convention Exclusive (Image): It’s another big debut from JMS’ Joe’s Comics imprint; this copy I was lucky enough to have signed by both JMS and cover artist Whilce Portacio, while interior art is handled by Tom Mandrake. The premise of a washed up sidekick trying to get his act together after his mentor is supposedly gunned down is right up my superhero deconstructionist alley because of the way it plays with the Batman/Robin or Captain America/Bucky archetypes, but as caustically interesting (the “Robin” character shaking down a prostitute for a beej in a back alley) as it was, I just never felt that the campy awkward art ever stood up to the gravitas of the script. Could be something I'll revisit in trade.

The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 (Oni Press): It was nice to find a Chris Roberson project that I felt I finally connected with. This is a really fun, stylish, fast-paced, 1960’s style supernatural espionage throwback. I can see myself sticking with this for a while. Verity Mills is a name I’ll remember, reflective of the type of distinct characters and characterization being offered by this team. With other ongoing creator owned series like Letter 44 debuting, it really feels like Oni Press is making an effort to compete in the space largely being led and dominated by Image Comics right now.

Chew #35: “Destroy Savoy” Convention Exclusive (Image): I still don’t quite grasp the rabid appeal of this title. I know a person who claims this as his favorite modern book, shoot, it wouldn’t even crack my Top 30. The art is reasonably attractive, but the visual gags in the background didn’t make me laugh. Nor did any of the writing. It’s just a pleasant read that I stare blankly at, endlessly waiting for the funny to arrive. Typos aside (a growing concern with the books I picked up at SDCC, as you’ll see), I think Layman and Guillory have built a very fascinating world to play in, but it doesn’t tickle my funny bone in the way its rabid fans usually describe.

Misc. Others: I picked up and read through about half a dozen other small press books from SDCC that were just generally awful. I’m not trying to subtweet; I’m just not interested in naming names when it comes to these books. I’m still old-school enough to think that even bad press is good press. These books just didn’t offer any type of compelling or memorable premise, the dialogue was completely unnatural and failed the “read it out loud” test, ideas that could have been crisply relayed in a page were strung out over several, I generally think story ideas should have a discernible beginning, middle, and end, and the art was atrocious, looking like failed desktop publishing experiments from the 90’s.
I saved one for the tail end of this particular reading session because it superficially looked better. It had some really attractive art that reminded me of the wispy detail of old Joe Quesada, circa his X-Factor effort with Peter David. But, I cracked this book open to find literally 10 typos on the first page. When I say “literally” here, I literally mean literally, not figuratively. There were actually 10 typos on the very first page. I’m confounded by this. I don’t understand the logic or carelessness in the chain of events that leads from someone wanting to be a comic book writer, to writing an actual script, to finding an artist, inker, and colorist willing to work on the book, to spending loads of money publishing it, spending another load of money getting yourself to the big dance at SDCC, and then having the gumption to hand your project over to a critic as an example of your foot-forward best work, only to discover 10 typos on the very first page.
Really, small publishers? Really? Nobody caught any of these mistakes at any stage of the process? There were an additional 16 typos littered throughout the book, but 10 on the very first page? Really? I can overlook something discretionary like not using my beloved Oxford Comma, but this stuff was way more basic. Not knowing how to use commas and semicolons correctly? Not knowing that you're supposed to capitalize the names of continents as proper nouns? Randomly omitted words? Extra letters just haphazardly sprinkled about like garlic salt and inserted into words for extra flair? Using “citys” and “city’s” and “cities” interchangeably? Repeatedly? Come the fuck on.


Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

Yep. It’s time for San Diego Comic-Con this week, so much like last week, due to a mix of family and friends in town, as well as general comics “stuff” happening, regular reviews will probably be late to non-existent. I was able to post advances of Star Wars #7 and True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys #2 last week, in addition to a smattering of mini-comics at Poopsheet Foundation for you all to chew on, but I never got to full reviews of the epic East of West #4, the high concept and high drama of Sheltered #1, or the peripheral world-building as core story focus in Astro City #2. Be sure to follow me @ThirteenMinutes to get micro-reviews in lieu of the full length variety if I happen to sneak some reading in this week. I just received comps of Numbercruncher #1 (Thanks, Titan Comics!), as well as Prophet #37, and Dream Thief #3, so there’s always a chance.

In any case, here are the books I’d spend my money on this week: Conan The Barbarian #18, Dream Thief #3, and Harbinger Wars #4. I also plan on giving Day Men #1 and Batman ’66 #1 a flip through at the LCS. On the GN front, there’s Conan The Barbarian Vol. 14, Think Tank Vol. 2, and The Killer HC Vol. 4, with The Killer Omnibus TPB Vol. 1. If you’re in San Diego this week (for SDCC or otherwise), please consider coming out Wednesday 7/17 at 9am to my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. We’ve got Ed Brisson & Johnnie Christmas signing Sheltered #1, including the Exclusive Retailer Variant Cover. It was a great first issue, combining the pre-apocalyptic high concept with taut interpersonal drama. I think it has all the potential to be “The Next Walking Dead.” Lastly, if you’re at SDCC and want to pass me review copies or just say hey, home base is courtesy of my friend Ryan Claytor at the Elephant Eater Comics table (P-16) in the Small Press Pavilion, directly across from Oni Press.


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The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys #2 [Make Some Noise!]

The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys #2 (Dark Horse): It’s becoming increasingly clear with the Battery City newsfeed that the entire population of the former LA Basin (revealed in the interesting backmatter for those not already in the know) is being systematically brainwashed and stripped of their individuality by Better Life Industries (BLI). Gerard Way and Shaun Simon focus this issue on Killjoy Sharpshooter-cum-DJ Cherri Cola as he tries to find and protect our young messiah protagonist near the ruins of The Nest. During the last issue, The Nest kept visually reminding me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; I now think that it reminded me of the head of Zauriel, an angelic Grant Morrison creation (in lieu of being able to use Hawkman) during his old JLA run. Everyone knows antagonist Korse is based on Grant Morrison, so now I guess there’s some sort of ouroboros serpent-eating-it’s-own-tail thing happening. Anyway, I liked the mystery the first issue laid out quite a lot, not insulting the audience with exposition, simply world-building organically and letting the audience catch up and interact in that tertiary way that comics as a medium does so well. I like this issue even more; what it lacks in slightly obtuse mystery, it makes up for with more accessible intrigue, as the narrative intent seems to snap sharply into place and settle into a rich groove. There’s so much to like occurring in this issue, from sex bots attempting to secure new batteries and encountering nothing but the knotted bureaucracy keeping the populace in check, to Korse being demoted for surprisingly twisty reasons, to Killjoy costumes enshrined in a radio station that functions as the voice of the underground, to an uprising about to pop off against Battery City from out in the desert. I said it last time, but I’ll say it again. I believe this is THE art of Becky Cloonan’s career unfolding before our eyes here. She just gets better and better with each successive project. It’s so crisp and polished, capturing the pop iconography style (thanks to vibrant colors from Dan Jackson), as well as bristling with a dangerous energy lurking just below that taut surface. Her variable line weights give characters just the right attitude, whether it’s anemic frailty in the subtle emotional scenes, or a bold sense of power in the more earnest and emphatic sequences. There’s such a robust sense of design to her work, evident in the costumes, the cities, and the arid environments. “The Cloonan Aesthetic” (if such a thing now exists) is about counterpoints. It is thick and substantial, yet light and swift, moving effortlessly between those poles at will, from mean close-ups you can’t escape, to people hidden in the shadows and their own insecurities, she races the camera in and out at with heart-pounding effect. At this point, there’s no doubt in my mind that The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys will be cited as one of the year’s best books, inhabiting that elusive position between mainstream appeal and indie credibility. Grade A+.

Star Wars #7 [The Wood Pile]

Star Wars #7 (Dark Horse): I’m betting that Brian Wood could writer a killer Black Widow book if Marvel ever offered up that character to him. This issue of Star Wars, and the run itself to some extent, is filled with increasingly clever espionage and counterintelligence traits. The Star Wars property has a rich tradition of such activity too, whether it’s Luke and Han gallivanting around the Death Star dressed as Stormtroopers, Lando going undercover in Jabba’s Palace to save his friend, or Leia posing as Boushh to do the same, just to name a few top of mind examples. Here, the main thrust of the issue sees Luke and Wedge attempt to infiltrate a Star Destroyer. It’s the latest example of Wood taking cues from the originals and then extending beyond them. It’s a seamless way to stay consistent with the source material thematically, yet world-build with fresh new content in the interstitial space between well consumed episodes. The biggest “news” regarding this issue is that Carlos D’ Anda is taking a break, so frequent collaborator Ryan Kelly joins Brian Wood for this arc. Kelly draws Luke’s face a little flat at times for my taste, but is otherwise able to play with a variety of sets and clothes and craft as Luke and Leia are still reeling from emotional fallout, but must develop a tactical plan to ferret out the spy. The perspective might be just a touch off with the angle of the blasters coming from Slave I, but that’s admittedly being extremely nitpicky (like all annoying Star Wars fans are). For the most part, Kelly excels at depicting this world; his tech is convincing, his Emperor is menacing, and his Leia is confident and beautiful. He might even have edged out D’Anda with my favorite illustration work for her. The crisp colors of Gabe Eltaeb certainly help the aesthetic of the book stay consistent during the artist transition; I especially liked the gorgeous dark shadows he coats some of the Tatooine bits with. No surprise, but I continue to enjoy Wood’s depiction of the various women in this universe. Obviously Leia is front and center, still in charge of the stealth squad as she brings Luke fully into the fold to hatch a new plan, and they attempt to work their problem from Colonel Bircher’s end. It’s an aggressive, high risk plan, but that’s basically what the Rebel Alliance excels at. They rely on daring and skill instead of mass numbers in battle like the Empire does. So many of the key roles are female. Leia is off on a(nother) mission of her own, Mon Mothma is the overall leader of the Alliance, Han’s new friend helping him “float away with the rest of the garbage” is a woman, Prithi is a daring pilot currently in a critical position, and Birrah Seah is caught in the power struggle between the Emperor and Lord Vader. It’s an egalitarian approach to the gender roles that never feels forced; it’s a natural use of the resources that happen to be present at every level of the conflict. Confession: If I saw a Hound’s Tooth toy, I’d probably buy it. Grade A.

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The Gettysburg Address [Graphic Adaptation]

The Gettysburg Address (William Morrow): The Gettysburg Address is a deceptively simple title for a complex, but accessible work. It’d be easy to casually dismiss this book at first glance as an artistic interpretation of one of the most famous speeches in US History (JFK and MLK are the only others that really even come to mind). While it does ultimately decipher Lincoln’s words line by line, it’s also much more than that. Writer Jonathan Hennessey and artist Aaron McConnell create exceptional context for Abraham Lincoln’s 200 word speech by positioning it relevant to The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. The Declaration essentially supported the notion of rebellion and seccession on moral, if not legal, grounds, and is a “small government” document. The Constitution supports the idea of preserving a Federal Union, emphasizing the strengths of big government, and The Gettysburg Address keys off of that tension inherent in our country’s guiding documents with very precise word choices imbued with specific meaning. The creators are careful to tell this tale from the alternate POVs of slaves, soldiers, and statesmen. Hennessey and McConnell’s interpretation takes what could be dry and rote facts and fills them with life. McConnell’s art in particular is somehow dirty and majestic all at once, with lively colors and thick ink, capturing the horrors of the US Civil War, but also the grandeur of the experiment the Founding Fathers must have envisioned. There’s a very painterly two page title spread that is an early cue to McConnell’s artistic ability. Now, I know a lot about the US Civil War. I’ve read tons of books, I’ve seen all the movies, and my father is in the antique business, with a personal passion for military pieces from the Civil War, and he bombarded me with history growing up. I studied the Civil War from a few different angles in college. But, I can safely say that I learned more from this book than I ever did in my K-12 education, so it makes me think that this HarperCollins imprint has unlocked the medium in a way that could be illuminating and entertaining for so many school age children across the country. For example, The Gettysburg Address made me understand The Articles of Confederation as an experiment in small government (that was too small) better than any teacher ever did. It made me understand the “compact theory” and POV of The Confederacy opting out of The Union in a way I never fully appreciated before. I never knew that Vermont declared its independence from New York State. I never knew that Connecticut and Pennsylvania had an armed dispute. As a student of history, I can’t help but feel that several educators failed me! The Gettysburg Address covers lots of ground, from the characteristics of the continent, regional and cultural differences between North and South, the invention of the cotton gin, and how all of that influenced an economy dependent on slavery, to European influence, to Robert E. Lee being such a key figure, to presidential fame, military struggles, demoralized troops, anti-war citizens, and the city of Richmond, Virginia. Imagine today’s equivalent, 5.5 million lives being lost in a US Civil War, and you have some idea of the horror of this conflict, and how poor old Abe Lincoln’s speech was supposed to put everything back together and justify a war on tenuous legal ground, but implicit moral and aspirational grounds for the country. The book’s main theory posits through interpretation of Lincoln’s actions and intent that The Gettysburg Address is a quintessentially American piece of writing. It wrestles with the very idea of what our national character is. The Gettysburg Address was commentary on the war, the war was armed commentary over tension between The Declaration and The Constitution, those two documents largely create the very vision of the country. The Gettysburg Address should be required reading for every citizen of the United States. Grade A.

The Outliers [Small Press]

The Outliers (Alternative Comics): There’s certainly no denying the sheer artistry on display in Erik T. Johnson’s beautiful new project. From the dust jacket and French folds, to the illustrated guide to primal fears on the covers (visages on one side, descriptions on the reverse), to the paper quality, the letterpress printing technique, and so on. For those naysayers decrying “print is dead!” with the rise of digital comics, I say “BAH!” Digital comics will never be able to capture the tactile presence of something like The Outliers, which is a prime example of small press comics transcending the basics of the medium to achieve objet d’art status. The Outliers is a careful exploration of our prejudices and jingoistic attitudes, not to mention the fact that you just never know what’s going on behind the scenes with most people. Too often, we see only the masks they wear for the outside world and base our perceptions on that. There is mystery surrounding The Outliers, which I greatly enjoyed. It’s about a kid, some would say a “freak,” living a sheltered life. The freak kid endures a freak accident during a freak storm and encounters a freak creature with freak professors and freak languages following. It’s freaky, ok? I don’t mean that as a pejorative descriptor, only in the sense that Johnson is able to effectively evoke mood, vibe, and place. It’s easy to imagine the events in Chapter One of The Outliers occurring somewhere in the wet wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. So much of the work is done with minimal dialogue that it’s easy to imagine The Outliers playing like some silent short film, a cross between the sense of wonder and discovery in The Iron Giant and some of the Pixar shorts like La Luna, perhaps revealing Johnson’s career as a designer and illustrator. Color plays an integral role in the success of The Outliers. Johnson initially uses a lush green to emphasize the rain drenched wooded adventure. Later in the story, he switches to soft and contemplative blue hues, which seem thematically appropriate. He uses inky emotive lines for Tsu, a character who rarely speaks conventionally, like some great facial characteristic hybrid of Craig Thompson and Simon Roy. The Outliers seems to be fascinated with the fringes of society, the titular people, places, and events that lie on the outer edge of our daily existence or just on the periphery of our understanding. With great induction to his world and an exciting cliffhanger, all I can say is “more, please.” Spoiler Alert, but we’re probably looking at one of the best books of the year. Grade A+.

Ed Brisson & Johnnie Christmas @ Yesteryear Comics [Signing]

I’m happy to announce that my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics already has their fourth in-store signing scheduled for 2013, featuring Ed Brisson (Comeback, Murder Book, Near Death) and Johnnie Christmas (Murder Book, Continuum: The War Files). They’ll both be in the store next Wednesday July 17th at 10am to celebrate the release of their new creator owned book Sheltered #1 published by Image Comics. Sheltered is billed as a “pre-apocalyptic” tale about fringe survivalists prepping for multiple end of the world scenarios. The high concept is a twist on traditional post-apocalyptic fare and the concept art over at Christmas’ site looks fantastic. This could be the next hit book from Image Comics. Come get your Exclusive Yesteryear Comics Variant Cover by Johnnie Christmas! Additionally, a CGC Representative will be on-hand to verify signatures for those of you interested in submitting books for professional grading. I’ll be working this event, so if you’re in San Diego for the week of Comic-Con (!) then please stop by to say hi, support the renaissance of creator owned comics, and support my friend Michael, owner of Yesteryear Comics, the region’s best retailer. For more information, jump in and follow @YesteryearComic @EdBrisson @J_Xmas @ThirteenMinutes or check out Facebook.com/YesteryearComics.


7.03.13 [Weekly Reviews]

"Weekly Reviews" is a column brought to you with generous support from our 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.
Deathmatch #7 (Boom! Studios): In about half a dozen issues, Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno have created an instant set of superhero archetypes to deconstruct that I care more about than the Marvel and DC fare that they subvert. This issue witnesses additional match-ups, like the long awaited showdown between Sable and Mr. Chuckles (imagine a female Batman and an even more clownish Joker), Meridian finally comes clean with what really happened at The Rift, and the whole thing is one of the most thrilling and entertaining books of the year. Grade A.
Catalyst Comix #1 (Dark Horse): Joe Casey comes at this thing and attacks the genre like he’s working three sides of the same triangle. He fast forwards to the apocalypse like a Kirby-esque shot of adrenaline, revitalizing Titan in a post-9/11 number with Dan McDaid, where the protagonist questions his own identity as time marches on. Are superheroes there to deal with weird threats or does their very existence actually create them? The second with Paul Maybury journeys to a cosmic well that’s the mother of all threats with Amazing Grace in a shared universe that’s like Godland meeting 2001. This is Joe Casey’s “Final Frontier.” The third entry is probably the most fun, with Ulises Farinas, reminding me of a 1970’s Power Man and Iron Fist riff. There’s a suit who goes-a-recruitin’ for Agents of Change, with Warmaker and Wolfhunter, and mentions of Rebel and Ruby. It’s important to look at these three stories as a triptych forming one image. We’ve got New York, LA, and The Cosmos. We’ve got superheroes, space, and street level. We’ve got what feels like the 70’s, the 80’s, and the 90’s in a modern package that’s akin to Rob Liefeld asking Brandon Graham to come in and revitalize Prophet at Image (with other creators also taking on other 90’s work, Joe Keatinge on Glory, etc.). Here, it’s Mike Richardson asking Joe Casey to come in and run wild with old Dark Horse shared universe ideas from the 90’s. With quirky styles, social relevance, and tons of content for just $2.99, this has heaps of potential. Grade A.
Satellite Sam #1 (Image): It seems like people are either loving or hating this book, but I’m leaning toward the former. The only really negative things I can say about Fraction and Chaykin’s latest offering is that, at times, the art felt really grainy and smudgy – to the point you can’t even read the names of the cities above the clocks on the wall on the very first page – but maybe that was done intentionally to reflect the snowy TV reception of the time period this story is set in(?). I also thought the pacing was pretty inconsistent, going from being very decompressed (literally 5 pages of a chick walking the streets of New York trying to find their titular star) to wildly fast and staccato by the end, to packed with dense dialogue in the beginning. It just wouldn’t settle down. That said, I liked it! From choice turns of phrase like “piece of strange,” to the insider baseball, behind-the-scenes, retro-Newsroom, Sorkin-esque network politics, manic magic old-timey drama of producing live TV, and subversive 1950’s undercurrent, it seems like Chaykin has shifted down to the point I can stomach his sometimes over-the-top aesthetic, and Fraction is redlining it up where I like him the most. I'm in. Grade A.
Ten Grand #3 (Image): I read most of these books days ago and did all sorts of things before sitting down to write reviews up, so (gasp!) I’m having a hard time remembering what went on in this book. I remember thinking it might have been the best issue yet because of the way the stakes are upped by the end, and how JMS and Templesmith continue giving us flashbacks that fill in the earlier years of the people involved. Grade A-.
Suicide Risk #3 (Boom! Studios): Ditto. I remember that some type of “slow burn LA Confidential” type of vibe stuck with me long after I read this issue. Grade A-


We Will Remain @ Poopsheet Foundation

Check out my latest small press review at Poopsheet Foundation.

Grand Gestures @ Poopsheet Foundation

Check out my latest small press review at Poopsheet Foundation.

James Asmus & “The Goat” @ Yesteryear Comics [Signing]

I’m happy to announce that my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics has their third in-store signing scheduled, featuring James Asmus (Thief of Thieves, The End Times of Bram & Ben, Gambit) and “The Goat!” They’ll both be in the store Saturday July 13th at 10am to celebrate the release of the new Quantum & Woody #1 from Valiant Comics. The Summer of Valiant continues with this comedic adventure, and Valiant has put a lot of talent on the book, including art by Tom Fowler (Hulk: Season One, Venom, Mysterius The Unfathomable), regular covers by Ryan Sook (X-Factor, The Spectre, Wednesday Comics: Kamandi) and colors from Jordie Bellaire (The Massive, Mara, Nowhere Men). Additionally, a CGC Representative will be on-hand to verify signatures for those of you interested in submitting books for professional grading and slabbing. I will NOT be working this event due to some prior commitments that’ll take me out of town, but if you’re in San Diego, then please stop by and support my friend Michael, owner of Yesteryear Comics, the region’s best retailer. For more information, jump in and follow @YesteryearComic @JamesAsmus @ThirteenMinutes or check out Facebook.com/YesteryearComics.

Operation Pizza @ Poopsheet Foundation

I reviewed a new Box Brown book over at Poopsheet Foundation.

I Think of Demons / Sticky-Icky-Icky @ Poopsheet Foundation

I reviewed a new Box Brown book over at Poopsheet Foundation.


The Invincible Haggard West @ Comics Bulletin

I wrote about Paul Pope's new teaser for Battling Boy, along with Jason Sacks, Keith Silva, and Daniel Elkin over at
Comics Bulletin.

The Foodie Guide To SDCC

Growing up, I worked at three different restaurants, and ended up managing two of them. After college, I started working professionally and I used to travel a lot for work, usually about 30% of the time. One of the things that always broke up the monotony of endless meetings and training drills and connecting flights was the local cuisine. I love travelling, exploring new cities, learning new languages, and eating good food, which is always an easy entry point to culture. Being knowledgeable about cool eateries in multiple domestic cities or even a few international destinations will always make you feel worldly. I mean, you’ll never know when being able to produce the name of a cool sushi place in Denver, Colorado, a roadside BBQ joint in Austin, Texas, a quirky seafood haunt in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the best place to take a large group for dinner in Florence, Italy, or the location of the best pubs in Sydney’s Darling Harbour will come in handy. I was lucky to have worked at a very large company that had something like 60,000 employees dispersed around the globe. Working there for 11 years meant that I knew a lot of people in a lot of places. It didn’t matter what city I found myself in, I was always surrounded by coworkers, some who became lifelong friends, that graciously played tour guide and exposed me to the spots that the locals favored instead of being stuck in hotel bars or touristy areas full of strip malls and chain restaurants.

Being settled now in San Diego, karma has allowed me to return the favor. Whenever I have family or friends visiting, I really enjoy being on the flip side of that equation and playing tour guide myself. It’ll always be fun to take people across the bridge to Coronado Island for the first time, to walk under the Little Italy arch with them, or to be knowledgeable enough to recommend a hotel or camping spot up the coast in Carlsbad. But for me, these experiences always center back on my love of food. With that long-winded preamble out of the way, here’s a rambling off-the-top-of-my-head list of some cool spots I’ve discovered living in San Diego. Keep in mind, even this smattering of recommendations will barely scratch the surface. San Diego is the 8th largest city in the United States, has about 1.5 million people alone in the city proper, with roughly 3 times that amount in the county comprising the greater metropolitan area. Generally speaking, I will always encourage the SDCC horde to set some time aside to escape the tourist trap frat party atmosphere of the historic Gaslamp Quarter and the seemingly endless sea of punters spilling into the streets during Comic-Con in the nexus between 4th and 6th Avenues, spanning Broadway to Harbor Drive. San Diego is incredibly spread out geographically, with plenty of different neighborhoods, each with it’s own personality and cool spots, so come explore the real San Diego beyond the Convention Center and the artificial lights of the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront.

Rei Do Gado: Ok, so in direct opposition to everything I just said, if you absolutely have to stay in the Gaslamp, then do yourself a favor and push out to the very edge of the Quarter and treat yourself to this Brazilian Steakhouse at the intersection of Broadway and 4th. I’ve been to a dozen or so of this style of churrascaria  restaurant around the world, and this is one of the best. Yeah, it’s one of those places where bronzed hostesses who could audition for the failed Wonder Woman pilot seat you with what you think is a suggestive smile, and gaucho-attired dudes with genuine South American accents bring large skewers of various grilled meats around to your table. Rei Do Gado is great because in addition to the delectable cuts of meat, they also have a glorious “salad bar” that includes all kinds of fruits and grilled veggies. We’re talking about so much more than a bowl of iceberg lettuce here though; we’re talking artichoke hearts and grilled asparagus and sliced mango and hearts of palm and real mozzarella cheese and melon with prosciutto, etc. You could make a meal out of the side selection alone. If you need to whet your whistle, they’ve also got caipirinhas (basically a Brazilian mojito) being served by go-go dancer women up in a cage (I’m not even kidding). If you’re really brave, you’ll eat a grilled marinated chicken heart. C’mon, do it. It’s a rite of passage. It’s all you can eat, so dear lord, please bring your appetite.

Burger Detour: Ok, I give up. If you really insist on staying close to the Gaslamp, then I also recommend Zanzibar Café at 707 G. Street. I think this is technically in the East Village, between 7th and 8th. If you need a satisfyingly sloppy and robust burger with a couple decent local brews on tap, this Mediterranean influenced joint is totally walkable and just far enough out to escape some of the crowd. Me? I married a girl who is on a lifelong quest for the perfect burger, so here are some of the better burgers I’ve discovered in San Diego: You’ve got  Hodad’s in Ocean Beach (that’s “OB” if you’re a local and don’t want anyone looking at you funny) where I’m a fan of the burgers and definitely the shakes, but not the fries so much. Sorry! It’s a tiny spot frequented by locals and tourists alike, so be prepared to wait in line 20 minutes or so. Anyway, it’s a “Blue Jay Burger” you want here, which is a bacon cheeseburger topped with bleu cheese. You can never go wrong with bleu cheese. Say it with me: you can never go wrong with bleu cheese. Then over in the old refurbished Naval Training Center complex in Point Loma, that’s “NTC Liberty Station” if you’re from around these parts (which is a cool historic place you should see anyway while you’re in San Diego), there’s a ton of interesting restaurants and businesses, specifically Slater’s 50/50 where nearly all of the burgers can be made with 50% ground beef and 50% bacon. Yeah. Great shakes too. You can also design your own custom burger. "The Big Daddy Melt" is a mammoth. I couldn’t finish it. And I can finish anything.

Karl Strauss (Downtown): Once again, if you’re absolutely adamant on staying downtown for whatever reason and need a quick meal and/or beer from a small chain establishment, push your way out of the movie studio and video game melee and head toward the least known location in the Karl Strauss chain near the intersection of Broadway and Columbia. My friends from the San Francisco Bay Area will probably compare this to the Gordon Biersch enterprise up north, and that’s essentially correct if that happens to make any sense to you and resonates. They’re in an old ivy covered brick building near the base of the W Hotel and open ‘till midnight. They’ve got an open cask night, typical bar food from salads to burgers to pastas, and some really decent microbrew. On a hot summer day, I recommend either the Endless Summer lager or the Windansea Wheat (basically a Hefeweizen). Don’t for get the orange wedge. If you happen to find yourself in the small Silicon Valley style tech corridor over in Sorrento Valley, there’s another somewhat hidden Karl Strauss tucked away in an industrial area with a secluded garden pond and a first rate Sunday brunch buffet option.

The Brickyard: It’s such an old-school anti-corporate coffee and tea haven that they don’t even have a website. They’re tucked away on a weird intersection at Kettner Boulevard and G. Street, just around the corner from the Manchester Grand Hyatt (recently featured on the cover of Suicide Risk #1 from Boom! Studios), which is on the opposite end of Harbor Drive as the Convention Center. While we’re on the subject, if it’s your first time in San Diego, you’ll probably want to try and hit the bar atop the Manchester Grand Hyatt, naturally named Top of The Hyatt, which is usually an after-hours hang out for industry professionals during con, and offers immaculate views of the bay. It’s 40 stories up and the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast. If they’re packed, my fall-back option is usually the bar and restaurant (Marina Kitchen, terrific wine room) inside the Marriott Marquis just a block or so down, which will absolutely do in a pinch. They also infuse their own vodkas and rums there, which are great. Anyway, back at The Brickyard, you can enjoy a quiet place to escape the overweight Slave Leias and get some sun. It’s got a nice outdoor patio area where you can grab a coffee or tea, rest your feet, and regroup for another sortie into the Small Press Pavilion.

Bonus: around the corner on Kettner Boulevard, literally just across the trolley track from The Brickyard, is The Lion’s Share, so come back that night to this great bar. Many of the bartenders I know in San Diego cite this as their favorite bar, so that’s really saying something. Their emphasis is on unfettered craft beer and cocktails, but they do have an extremely interesting and eclectic dinner menu as well, so split some food tapas-style while you imbibe. Cheese Board (Cow, Goat, Sheep) + Exotic Sausage Board (Pheasant, Duck, Elk) + Two Rounds of Allagash White Beer = Perfect Evening.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto (Little Italy): Filippi’s is a local family owned chain and one of those things you kinda’ just have to tick off your list of things to experience in San Diego. While there are dozens of good restaurants and wine bars in Little Italy – and trust me, you could do much worse than bar hop from, say, The Lions’s Share, to Craft & Commerce (“Mother’s Ruin” Punch Bowl!), to any one of the places in Little Italy – many of them run closer to being fine dining establishments that might be better suited for taking a date, multi-hour leisurely meals, or could even possibly make you feel as if your Larfleeze The Orange Lantern tee isn’t quite proper attire. Filippi’s is also a sit-down place, but it’s super casual, family friendly, and very reasonably priced. I’ve gotten out of there by splitting a medium pizza, a salad, and a bottle of decent wine for 30-something bucks! It’s also the first in the chain, started in 1950 by Italian immigrants, so you’ll get your precious dose of history. You actually have to walk through the working deli up front, Goodfellas steadicam-style, back past some mysteriously marked doors to enter the main restaurant. Don’t forget that bottle of Pinot Grigio, served in little shot glasses just like you’re sitting in my grandpa’s kitchen while sipping grappa and telling stories on a lazy afternoon. Salud!

Lucha Libre: Alright, we’re finally out of downtown and moving toward Mission Hills. This place was featured on Food Network and there’s been a line out the door ever since. Owned by brothers who work there every day, their specialty is authentic-style Mexican “street tacos” with a twist. There are approximately 1,340,913 taquerias in San Diego, some great, some okay, some shady, and some downright horrible, but you’ll never eat tastier Mexican food than Lucha Libre. (As for other Mexican food, I’d recommend Mama Testa in Hillcrest, The Green Hornet Burrito at Lalo’s in Hillcrest, carne asada chips or bacon breakfast burritos at Roberto’s, Alberto’s, Aliberto’s, Alejandro’s, or Rigoberto’s). Back at Lucha Libre, from the fresh made tortillas, to the quality of the meats, to the savory sauces, it’s totally memorable. Wear a Mexican luchador mask and receive a discount. Call ahead and make reservations for the golden Champion’s Booth (pictured above) – really, there’s nothing like this for ambiance. I highly recommend it. Don’t order a California Burrito, you gringo. If it’s your first time, then I recommend ordering one Surf & Turf Taco and one Queso Taco w/ Chicken. If you’re still hungry after eating delicious carne asada with grilled shrimp, or cheese fried crisp between two corn tortillas, and drenching it all in the mild elixir known only as “the green sauce,” then go crazy and top it all off with a Tijuana Hot Dog. That’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon, of course. The place is loud, cramped, and hot, so you’re gonna’ want a fountain drink. Hear me when I say that the only acceptable choices are Horchata or Orange Bang. Don’t even talk to me if you don’t get one of those.

The Regal Beagle: The great thing about having tacos at Lucha is that just two blocks down the way on India Street, there’s a fantastic bar called The Regal Beagle for you to drench those tacos in. They’ve got something like 24 beers on tap at all times (pictured above), and the selections rotate pretty regularly. I’ve never seen the board the same on any two visits. San Diego is quickly becoming the craft brew capital of the world, so they tend to feature local brews like Ballast Point or Green Flash (no relation to Wally West), but there’s all sorts of options to explore. There’s something happening every night, happy hour, trivia night, open cask night, wings night, so check their web-site and come early. They’ve got it all, ciders to IPAs, porters to stouts, ales and lagers to jalapeno and bacon laced beer, to something insane called Indra Kunindra (hints of cocoa, cayenne, lime, and coconut). If you play your cards right and still have room for eats, the sausage sampler platter is ridiculous. It features custom made sausage from a company up in San Marcos, with varieties like Moroccan Lamb, German Garlic, or Hungarian Kolbasz (with 20% bacon inside). Seriously, put down the back issues of ROM: Space Knight and ask yourself when’s the last time you had a Moroccan lamb sausage? Jack, Janet, and Chrissy won’t be there, but get to know terrific bartender Hannah and she’ll surely give you a couple beer samples and make a fantastic recommendation.

Empire House: In short, this is one of my favorite hangs in San Diego and I recommend it profusely (pictured above). I’ve taken family, friends, and coworkers so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve hosted work functions there. I follow them on Twitter. C’mon, who follows restaurants on Twitter? This place is in Hillcrest and is literally up the hill on University Ave., a short hop from Lucha Libre and The Regal Beagle. For the adventurous, I recommend a circuit of drinks at The Beagle, followed by more drinks and some apps at Empire House. It’s a fantastic way to spend an afternoon that stretches into an evening. No matter if you’re going for drinks, apps, or a full meal in this converted two-story house, you simply have to order the Red Miso Wings. They arrive piping hot from the kitchen, with one of the best glazes around. Sweet, savory, spicy, and perfectly crisp. The Cuban Sandwich is good, all of the salads are good, and the sausage bread is totally unique, but if I’m looking for something more hearty I’ll usually order up a plate of “casters.” These are basically EH’s rendition of sliders, which you can mix and match, all with a homemade pickle riding shotgun. The staff is probably the friendliest in San Diego; every time I go I get into an interesting conversation with our server or even one of the owners, who just might be the person making your drink. Speaking of, they have these delicious “pint and a half” cocktails that arrive in one of those old mason jars, featuring playful and refreshing concoctions like Blueberry Basil Lemonade or the Raspberry Beret, involving mottled raspberry with vodka and ginger beer. Delicious.

Lefty’s Pizza: If you didn’t make it to C2E2 and you’ve still got a hankerin’ for Chicago-style pizza with that textured cornmeal crust after having a few drinks at The Regal Beagle or Empire House, then head over to this place. It’s tucked back on Goldfinch street, off of Washington Avenue, on the border between Mission Hills and Hillcrest. Grab an intimate wood booth in the back and unwind with a Spinach Supreme (spinach, mushrooms, basil, elephant garlic) or a Monster of The Midway (sausage, pepperoni, hot giardiniera, elephant garlic). If I recall correctly, they don’t have anything on tap, but do feature some interesting bottled beer selections. If you can still walk after that, head around the corner to M-Theory Music, one of the last independent music/record shops in San Diego, which also happens to have a small selection of locally produced mini-comics available.

FURTHER NORTH (Interstate 5): If you’ve come this far, perhaps you’re willing to go a little further? If sushi is on your mind, the absolute best quality sushi joint is Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach (but make sure you say “PB” or the locals will look at you funny). Reservations are definitely required because 15 minutes before they open, a line forms 20 people deep in the little parking lot. You’ll be greeted by classically trained Japanese sushi chefs who line up like Samurai flanking the freshest fish in the county. If you continue North up the 5, you may also be interested in Sushi Solana (no web-site, but it’s in Solana Beach right along Highway 1 about a block off the beach), who offer an insanely reasonable All You Can Eat menu for something like $20. Typically, AYCE sushi menus have pre-made items that maybe sat around a while, but Sushi Solana’s fun selection of rolls is all made to order. If sushi doesn’t suit your mood, the last stop on our North 5 Food Express this time around is Leucadia Pizzeria, which is on the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway (that’s “the PCH”) near Moonlight Beach. (There’s also another location inland from the Del Mar Race Track, if you happen to be in that neck of the woods. This one is close to my house, so if you see some bloke in the corner with two kids taking down a large Roasted Garlic Chicken, come say hi won’t you?). It’s probably my favorite pizza in all of San Diego. I consider that an important endorsement considering that two of the restaurants I worked at were independent pizza joints. Go for the Goat Cheese, or the Rosemary Chicken Potato, or the Thai Chicken, or umm, the Shrimp Pesto, the Greek Pizza, or the Pear-Gorgonzola-Arugula, shoot, any of the pizzas, you can’t really go wrong.

FURTHER NORTH (La Jolla): If you’re inclined to detour off the 5 and head into the village, not only can you drive by IDW hq on your way up the 5 (look to the right after the exits for Garnet and Grand in PB) and then see the old WildStorm building right on Prospect Street, but there are plenty of decent food options here, provided you get off “the strip” (Prospect Street) housing the tourists and high prices, and explore for a block or two inland. If you’re hungry and just need something on the cheap, the best deal in town is China Chef. It’s a little hole in the wall that’s far from fancy, but the lunch and dinner specials are around $6 for a big plate of food. You’ll leave full. I recommend the big ass bowl of wor wonton soup w/ noodles, one of the few dishes that transcends. Throw some Sriracha in there to heat those bamboo shoots and little pork dumplings up, and you’re good to go. Across from the Empress Hotel is a little spot called Aloha Sushi, which is where I interviewed colorist Jeromy Cox for anyone keeping score. It’s an eclectic mix of traditional sushi restaurant, Hawaiian food, and all kinds of Pacific Islander fare, like Filipino lumpia, etc. Sit outside and take down a tall Sapporo. If you see someone eating a J-Lo Roll and a Protein Roll while bitching about the ethics of small NPOs, come say hi won’t you? If Thai food is more your style, just around the corner from Aloha Sushi is Spice & Rice. Any of the lunch specials will do just fine; I’d probably recommend either the Hot Basil, Cashew Nut, or Panang Curry. Lastly, if you’re in La Jolla and breakfast is what you need, there’s nowhere better than The Coffee Cup. It looks like a vintage hipster diner from the outside, but inside you’ll find reasonably priced award-winning cuisine from chef Isabel Cruz. I’m not even a big breakfast guy, but the rosemary potatoes, amazing scrambles, and brown rice stir fry concoctions have kept me coming back for years.

FURTHER NORTH (Interstate 15): If, for some reason, your travels take you up the 163, under that bridge at Balboa Park, and onto North 15, fear not, there are still a couple spots along the way that can save you in a pinch. Exit on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and you’ll see one of the other Filippi’s Pizza Grottos in the chain. Honestly, the ambiance of this one is nothing special, but you’re likely there for the food, which is just as good as all the other locations. Head east down Clairemont Mesa just a little further and stop in to see my friend and retail sponsor Michael at Yesteryear Comics. Tell him I sent you and you’ll either get a 20% discount or get into a discussion over which title in the Valiant Comics line is best. Head back west across the 15 and hang a left on Convoy to hit Tajima Ramen House. You can’t go wrong with any of the huge noodle bowls here. I recommend the thin noodles with house tonkotsu broth, the miso broth, or the curry broth for something more spicy, along with the BBQ pork, the pork belly, and additional vegetables to get the most out of this noodle house. They also usually have drink specials like $9 pitchers of really good beer (like, say, Blue Moon, a great Belgian White); if you know what you’re doing you can get four perfect pours out of that. Where else can you find 4 pints for $9? Further up the 15 is an area called Mira Mesa, and if you exit on Mira Mesa Boulevard you’ll be at yet a third Filippi’s Pizza Grotto location on the border of Scripps Ranch. This one actually happens to be my favorite because of the 1970’s lounge atmosphere, where barfly regulars sit and nurse pitchers while you split a large pizza and take down a pitcher of your own in one of the dimly lit big red leather booths. It’s a large "The Works" you’re after, hold the onion. Across the street is a little place called Lucky Donut & Deli, which is an east coast style bodega where you can get an apple fritter, a deli sandwich, a candy bar, the newspaper, or a custom smoothie. If you see some dude in the corner reading the latest issue of The Massive, come say hi won’t you? Now, if you drive and you drive and you keep driving, you’ll end up in Rancho Bernardo (but you’ll need to just say “RB” so the locals don’t look at you funny) and the last stop on this leg of the trip is RB Sushi. It’s probably the best option if you’re dead-set on an AYCE sushi joint. It’ll cost you $25 dollars, but if you polish off at least 2-3 of the roughly $10 rolls, then you’re coming out ahead. The secret to the All You Can Eat menu at RB Sushi is that you can order off the kitchen menu and also get small plates of chicken teriyaki, beef short ribs, vegetable tempura, soft-shell crab, gyoza, firecracker shrimp, house salads, etc. On several occasions, I’ve polished off $100 worth of food for the flat fee of $25.

FURTHER EAST! I don’t know why you’d be heading this far east unless you really got screwed on that janky hotel reservation system, but if you wanted to head East on Interstate 8, then take Highway 67 into the hills, you’re eventually going to see signs for Barona Resort & Casino. It’s at least a half hour drive from downtown, but if another All You Can Eat buffet is what gets you going, this one’s hard to beat. For just $20 ($16 if you sign up for a free membership card ahead of time online, netting you a 20% discount – they also send you a voucher for a $5 chip, so now you’re in it just $11 net on your first visit!), you’re going to get mountains of succulent prime rib and crab legs, which is basically worth the price of admission alone. But on top of that, there’s decent Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, American, BBQ, Mongolian, salads, soups, seafood, desserts, cheeses, etc., etc., etc. They even have a Banh Mi cart (paging Daniel Elkin!). But, be careful! it’s impossible to try everything, so I tend to just focus on prime rib and crab legs, and maybe a dessert or three. Remember, you are on an Indian Reservation, so don’t get too rowdy or the tribal police will get you and you don’t want to recreate any of the scenes from Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s Scalped. Even further east in the dodgy town of El Cajon, you’re going to find one awful comic shop in a big ol’ warehouse (skip that, rookie, unless you’re still looking for those ROM: Space Knight back issues) and head to Greek Town Buffet. This is really high quality Greek food and is, you guessed it, All You Can Eat. There’s avgolemono soup, spanakopita, moussaka, gyros, pastitsio, chicken souvlaki, along with piles of feta, tzatziki, hummus, and all the rich baklava for dessert that you can shake a con exclusive action figure at. Have someone else drive because you’ll feel like sleeping on the way back to Hall H.

FURTHER SOUTH! I have no idea why you’d need to head further south toward the Mexican border through the ‘hoods of National City, Chula Vista, and Imperial Beach, but if you find yourself exiting Plaza Boulevard off the 805 in National City, there’s a humongous enclave of Asian markets, bakeries, and restaurants here (second only to Mira Mesa, the largest Filipino population outside of The Philippines). The only reason to burn up this much fossil fuel is because you’ve heard about the best salt and pepper chicken wings in the county and you’ve decided to experience Royal Mandarin for yourself. I happened to be attending a little lunch party at this Chinese restaurant on Super Bowl Sunday this year and the place was packed, a line of about 20 people out the door picking up just trays of the chicken wings, and there was a phone continually ringing off the hook as the staff scrambled to fill orders of wings going out by the party platter full. You order by the dozen. They’re deep fried in the crunchiest batter with just salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and green onion stalks. Enjoy.

Deep In The Woods @ Poopsheet Foundation

Check out my latest small press review at Poopsheet Foundation.

Strong Eye Contact @ Poopsheet Foundation

Check out my latest small press review at Poopsheet Foundation.