Eisner Awards 2007

Eternal gratitude to Robert Scott of Comickaze in San Diego, CA for offering me a VIP seat at the 2007 Eisner Awards. Spending an evening literally in the front row, picking up some nice swag (love those poker chips!), free drinks, and being seated between the tables of Neil Gaiman, Jill Thompson, Brian Azzarello, Roy Thomas, Paul Pope, and Steve Rude isn't a bad way to spend an evening. I mean really, when Paul Pope won (both times) he strolled right by my table and looked at me on his way to the stage! Hehe!

This won't be an exhaustive list of all the nominees and winners (because I'm just too tired and busy) like we did last year, but will just note some of the highlights for me. For the most part, I think the awards were right on this year, many I agreed with and very few upsets for me personally.

For Best Archival Collection/Project - Comic Books, I would have liked Abandon the Old in Tokyo to win. Yes, Absolute Sandman is beautiful, but even as Gaiman's co-presenter jabbed, how many awards are we going to keep giving this guy for the same work? Sandman is brilliant. Yes. Let's move on. It's been like 10 years, people. Besides, Adrian Tomine's text pieces and the design of the Drawn & Quarterly Yoshihiro Tatsumi books are breathtaking.

Very pleased to see Jason win Best US Edition of International Material for The Left Bank Gang. All of his projects are astounding, but this one seemed to have the right balance of literary gravitas and anthropomorphic charm that transcended his usually strong offerings right into the stratoshpere.

For Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team, I would have taken a risk and gone with Niko Henrichon for Pride of Baghdad or Sonny Liew for Wonderland, but alas, it was Fables that seemed to sweep this year, including this category with Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist could have easily gone to either Nicolas De Crecy for Glacial Period (a really underappreciated book from NBM) or Ben Templesmith for Fell alone. I didn't see anything that innovative with Jill Thompson's work in The Dark Horse Book of Monsters.

For Best Cover Artist, I agree with the selection committee that James Jean's stuff is beautiful on the Fables stable, but for my money John Cassaday is the winner, showing much more versatility with Astonishing X-Men, The Escapists, and The Lone Ranger.

"Absolutely" the right choice on Best Publication Design going to Darwyn Cooke for Absolute DC: The New Frontier.

Ed Brubaker/Criminal was cleaning up this year too, but for me, Grant Morrison would have edged him out for Best Writer on All-Star Superman.

Best Writer/Artist was dead bang on with Paul Pope winning for Batman: Year 100. This was the best Batman book in the last 5 years and the first Prestige Format to go back to press for multiple printings since Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.

Totally cool to see Best Writer/Artist - Humor go to Tony Millionaire for Billy Hazelnuts. This was a great book, probably my favorite Millionaire work.

By the time we reached the Best New Series category, I knew that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips would win for Criminal, but I was secretly hoping for The Lone Ranger by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello. More people need to buy this book!

As if the Eisner for Best Short Story last year (Teenage Sidekick) and the Best/Writer Artist win this year wasn't proof enough, we end the shadow of a reasonable doubt with Paul Pope pulling down another win for Best Limited Series (Batman: Year 100), which firmly cements his status as Comics God.

Grant Morrison deservedly wins Best Continuing Series for All Star Superman, but like the magically delicious Scot that he is, doesn't even make an appearance to say thanks when he really is at the Con.

Best Graphic Album - Reprint goes to Absolute DC: The New Frontier, another acknowledgment of Darywn Cooke's masterpiece.

Rounding out the night was a nice win for San Francisco Bay Area native Gene Luen Yang for American Born Chinese in the Best Graphic Album - New category. A nice way to end the night as Gene brings his son to the stage and thanks the Bay Area Comic Book Scene & Retailers for part of his success.

See you next year!

San Diego Comic Con International 2007 Report

This was the most complete Con experience ever for me. Attended all 4 days, as well as the Wednesday preview night. And away we go...

Wednesday: First time I've had the opportunity to come in for preview night due to having a 4 day pass. The real benefit here for me was getting a badge before the deluge of people flooded downtown San Diego on Thursday and being able to spend a couple of hours scouting out the floor noting where the booths I wanted to visit during the week would be.

Thursday: In short, the bar code registration process is a huge help, but the San Diego Convention Center is actually getting too small for this massive convention. There were lines to cross the street to get into a line to go inside to get into a line to go outside to get into the line before the line you actually wanted to line up for. God help you if you didn't pre-register online. Every day eventually sold out. I won't bore you with all the details, everyone has their horror story. But, my suggestion would now be to spread this event around town. Use Petco Park, use Qualcomm Stadium, use the neighboring hotels. Movie stuff in one location, comics in one location, and video games in a another. And yes, the place is still largely co-opted by Hollywood and non-comic related activities. I actually had to search to find some comics or Artist Alley, frustrating to see so much generic pop culture at something calling itself a Comics Convention. Anyway, kicked off opening day with the Marvel Comics US Postal Service Stamps unveiling. Decent rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and a free Silver Surfer inaugural stamp. Nice vibe to kick things off with. Hit the Paramount Pictures show in the (dreaded) Hall H. Great material related to Iron Man, Neil Gaiman, and Indiana Jones. Attended a panel with writer Brian Wood, got a sneak peak at his new project Northlanders from DC/Vertigo and some entertaining quippage from his Editor Will Dennis. Had amazing steak and beers at The Strip Club in the Gaslamp with some friends and family.

Friday: Hit the Warner Brothers show to check out a slew of new movies. Nice chat with Edward Burns and the adorably shy, nervous, cute Shannyn Sossamon (the girl from 40 Days & 40 Nights w/ Josh Hartnett for those that don't recognize the name). The highlight for me was Greg Rucka and Kate Beckinsale debuting the Whiteout trailer. Hearing Kate's dry wit, sexual innuendo, and general charm around a great comic book movie was uber-fun. The Whiteout pitch is easy, US Marshal Carrie Stetko investigates the first murder in Antartica, which is basically a different planet. Looks solid. Got some nice moments from Steve Carrell regarding Get Smart, and ended things with a great chat from Zack "300" Snyder on his upcoming Watchmen movie. Loved his insights and attitude toward approaching the project. Moved to the Archaia Studios Press (ASP) panel, the company that, for my money, was the hit of the entire Con (more on them later). Got a nice run down on the current stable of ASP books and what's coming up on deck. Hit up the DC Nation panel with Dan DiDio and a bunch of creators. I remember last year's DC Nation panel being fun, but fairly informative. This year, it tried to be fun (failed), and wasn't the least bit informative. The only real waste of time was this panel. No information was released and all questions were dodged. What's the point? The Friday highlight was attending the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (yes, the "Oscars" of the Comic Book Universe for anyone that mistakenly stumbled in here). Not only did I attend, I attended as a VIP (more on that later). This made for a long day, going 'till near midnight.

Saturday: Attended the Meet The Press: Writing About Comics panel. A nice assortment of online bloggers and more traditional journalistic types from Variety and Entertainment Weekly. Lively discussion about what constitutes "real" journalism, the online conversational style, immediacy of the web, fact checking, etc. Really enjoyed this. Bounced to the Spotlight on Paul Pope. Extremely interesting to hear him talk through his general influences to thought process to approach on a project like Batman: Year 100 and how it all ties together. The dude is just a comic rock n' roll pop star. He won an Eisner last year and 2 more this year. Love everything he does. Hit up the Spotlight on JH Williams. Equally interesting panel with JH and Grant Morrison discussing his general approach, and working with Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, as well as Morrison. Pretty impressive resume, loves his unique page layouts. Attended the Oni Press 10th Anniversary Quiz Panel. In my little trio, two of us answered questions correctly and won a stack of four trade paperbacks. Sadly, our little would-be hat trick was snuffed out on question three with an incorrect answer of 68,000 (talking to you, Crowe!). Then hit the CBLDF Benefit Auction, a huge array of over 100 interesting pieces and all for a good cause. Scored an early steal on a Paul Pope signed Harvest Moon print, but otherwise prices were astronomical and left about 90% into the auction since it was stretching into the later PM hours.

Sunday: Attended one final panel, the Marvel X-Men roundup with Ed Brubaker, Axel Alonso, Mike Carey, Peter David, and others. Pretty cool insights into the upcoming Messiah Complex "war" crossover that looks to be fun. About a billion other things happened during the week that I can't recall in order, so here they come... chatted with old comic pal Phil, who used to run Heroes in Campbell, CA and now runs the Comics Collector Shop in Mountain View, CA. Saw Lee from Lee's Comics in Mountain View. Saw Jamie from Southern California Comics. Chatted with David Mack and Mandy Amano at the Image booth and picked up his new children's book for my daughter. Chatted with Jonathan Hickman (The Nightly News) at the Image booth about his new book Pax Romana. Talked to Becky Cloonan at the Image booth and picked up a short story anthology from her. Talked to Billy Tan and Attila (cool guy from Canada, forgot your last name bro, sorry!) in Artist Alley. Saw Joss Whedon at the Dark Horse booth. Saw Warren Ellis at the Avatar booth. Went to the Paul Pope signing at the AdHouse booth, then bumped into him at the Drawn & Quarterly booth as he debuted some original art pages for sale. Ended up chatting and purchasing a stunning page featuring Robin from last year's Eisner Award winning short story in the the Solo series, Teenage Sidekick. Checked in with old buddy Tim Goodyear (who drew my first mini-comic, The Mercy Killing) a couple times and bought some books from his new company Sparkplug Comics. Chatted with Editor Joe Illidge a couple times at the ASP booth, met David "Mouse Guard" Petersen, Dave Rodriguez from Starkweather: Immortal, and Nick "Awakening" Taplansky. Generally drug everyone I encountered over to the ASP booth and made them buy something. Good times.

Coming up... more on the Eisners and a complete list of everything I picked up at the Con!

7.25.07 Comics

Once again, no time for full reviews this week due to changing jobs, friends visiting from out of town, and a little thing known as San Diego Comic-Con International (more on that later). For now, here's what I picked up this (last) week;

Grendel #0 (Dark Horse): As Matt Wagner's creation hits the 25th anniversary mark, Dark Horse gives us a nice little twisty Grendel story and a great interview piece. Definitely worth the price of admission and a nice gateway to the character. Grade A.

Queen & Country #32 (Oni Press): With an incongrous thud and whisper, poof! Like that, Q&C is gone. Rucka hastily "wraps up" this story arc with an awkward cliffhanger. We're treated to a half dozen typos and a genuinely apologetic letter from Rucka essentially indicating that he doesn't have the time to dedicate to Queen & Country to do it justice because of other (assumably, those at DC) projects, so it's on hiatus. Yet at the Con, he announces another ongoing title from Oni, PI book Stumptown. Hrmm. While I would rather see no Q&C than a crappy Q&C, I'd rather have Q&C than Stumptown. Sucks to be a Q&C fan at the moment. Grade B-.

Immortal Iron Fist #7 (Marvel): Love this book, looking forward to the new story arc.

The Mighty Avengers #4 (Marvel): Yeah, I'm kinda' losing my Bendis high and Tony is still a jerk, but between the quirky word balloons and Frank Cho's hot art, this is just different enough to keep me coming back.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #4 (Dark Horse): Still passively enjoying all things HB, but this will certainly be the last series of floppies I collect, transition to "waiting for the trade" shall now commence.

Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye #2 (Dark Horse): Still doesn't have the intense zany, zing of the first few issues, but enjoyable nonetheless. Good ol' adventure comics are actually quite rare.

Doktor Sleepless #1 (Avatar): Really curious to see if Ellis can churn out new high concepts and keep them sustained for a while. With a flurry of Avatar titles and buzz at the San Diego Con, we'll see if he can do this or will leave us hanging ala some other minis and belch out 3 issues a year.

Black Summer #1 (Avatar): Dug the first #0 issue, but we'll see if he can... oh, just read the entry above. Ditto.

Crecy (Avatar): Thankfully a one-shot, so the aforementioned concerns should be mitigated to some extent.

Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story: PremiereHardcover (Marvel): As I said, loved the first arc (this collects issues 1-6) and I'm pleased to see Marvel continue the Premiere Hardcover Edition format which provides a nice package and keeps the price point relatively low.

Pulp Hope (AdHouse Books): Ridiculously awesome to see a collection of Paul Pope works and essays in this attractive art book. Got multiple additional copies at the Con, got one for my new boss, got more comics from Pope, met him, even bought a piece of original art from him and his broker. Did I mention I love Paul Pope?


7.18.07 Reviews

Another week of business travel and some time spent catching up with old friends and colleagues prevents full reviews, but here's what I picked up and thumbed through this week;

Justice League of America #11 (DC): This is simply the best issue of the series to date. And it's not just Gene Ha's spectacular art, but a truly horrific sequence that highlights the personalities of two of the current league's least known members in the midst of some small, intense acts of heroism. Grade A.

The Brave & The Bold #5 (DC): If Perez's rendition of Saturn Girl and Ultra Boy on the cover isn't enough to lure you in, there's a really fun duo of stories here highlighting Bats & LSH along with the Green Lantern/Supergirl/Adam Strange trio. Beautiful art and a nice dense script that moves right along. Grade A.

Checkmate #16 (DC): The appearance of one of the Chinese heroes from 52 was a real snoozefest, but the back story around Michael Holt and Sasha Bordeaux's love affair was intriguing. Grade B+.

The Lone Ranger #7 (Dynamite Entertainment): Happy to see this title chugging along into the next arc.

The Order #1 (Marvel): Honestly, I have no real interest in any of these characters and the association with Civil War is a strike against, but at this point I'll pretty much try anything that Matt Fraction writes for an issue or two, his credibility continuing to rise.

The Programme #1 (DC/Wildstorm): Combine Peter Milligan's writing with an interesting core premise and I'll give it a shot.

World War Hulk #2 (Marvel): It sure feels like all things WWH are flooding the market at the moment and risk diluting the character's offerings, but I'm sticking with the core series and did enjoy the first issue.

ZeroKiller #1 (Dark Horse): Arvid Nelson's writing is extremely hit and miss for me, but there was something intriguing about the art on this in the Free Comic Book Day sampler, so I'll give it a shot.

I also picked up;

The Lone Ranger: Volume 1 Hardcover (Dynamite Entertainment): I was hoping for some additional bonus material in this hardcover, but it's still nice to have the first six issues collected on the shelf with a relatively low price point. Grade A.


7.11.07 Reviews

DMZ #21 (DC/Vertigo): This is a good example of showing your story, not simply telling it. We get the sense that these events are taking place somewhere and we're casually listening in, nobody is talking directly to the reader, which is such a refreshing return to the beauty possible in the medium, after many of the exposition laden endeavors this week. Matt continues the friendly fire investigation and we get a nice explanation of asymmetrical warfare, which makes for an interesting lesson on the strange juxtaposition of ethics in war. Burchielli's gritty realism in the detail of his line work perfectly complements the distressed tale that Wood is crafting. Check out the way that the military officer looks strangely like Abe Lincoln with shadowy references to the first American Civil War. Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli are one of the best creative teams working in comics today; this layered and complex work should be studied in college campus lecture halls across the country. Grade A.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1 (Oni Press): I was really looking forward to the debut work of comedic guru Stephen Colbert, with his faux-right wing Republican diatribe that cuts to the heart of the incongruous irony in the political landscape. It suits my liberal left leanings just fine. The attention to detail starts off just right with the "Approved by The Colbert Nation" stamp homage to the Comics Code Authority. While the $10 alternate Cassaday cover stung a little (though that's really my lame retailer's fault more than Oni or Tek Ja- errr, Stephen Colbert's), this was a good read. The crossover potential with Comedy Central is amazing here; kudos to the gang at Oni Press for seeing this project to fruition - I still remember the raucous applause at least year's San Diego Con when it was announced and have been anxiously awaiting it ever since. You can really hear Colbert's voice dripping sarcasm with the delivery of the lines inside your head. "Alphalon Alpha Base ahead. Alpha Sector!" Haha! And a bit of the political innuendo stays: "In a world where everybody's cared for, how could you be treated better than the next guy?" The irony is in the delivery much like the tone of the show, but overall I found it to be... chucklesome, rather than laugh out loud guffaw-inducing. "I would have sex with you Doris, if I wasn't on such a tight schedule." Be sure to catch the 13 Minutes review snippet in the last page ad for the Wasteland trade! Grade B+.

New Avengers #32 (Marvel): Wolverine largely narrates this issue, with some expository, sure, but nevertheless, a killer summation of the roster and mysterious allegiances and appearances that could make any one of them a Skrull in hiding. Jessica Drew sorta' steals the show with her tactical mind (yes, take the body to Tony indeed and gauge his reaction!) and cunning skills (night-night, Wolvie!). This is really solid popcorn entertainment, perfect for the summer movie season mentality I'm in at the moment. Yu's art is back strong, making both a plane full of talking heads seem vibrant end energetic, and a chilling crash sequence come to life. This book nicely positions the Skrull motivations and conspiracy on Earth to be milked in the Marvel U for some good story mileage. Grade B+.

BPRD: Garden of Souls #5 (Dark Horse): Abe has a nice line in here that smacks of his friend Hellboy: "Haven't you geniuses discovered plexiglas?" But ultimately, my personal realization is this: I really like the BPRD agents, Captain Daimio, their uniforms, the organization, and the procedural bureau bits *so* much more than any of the mystical hoo-ha about Hellboy's origin, his quest, or any of the Abe Sapien folklore-y bits. I know that runs contrary to the crux of what the Hellboy & BPRD mythos is all about, but my tastes are changing it would seem. Guy Davis' art is still a joy, particularly the action scenes here, which flow so smoothly and are clearly told, no ambiguity to the character's actions at all. Deciding to forego single issues in the future and stick to trades. This is good comics, I'm just not personally enjoying it like I used to. Grade B+.

Martha Washington Dies (Dark Horse): Frank Miller & Dave Gibbons are a powerhouse creative duo and tonally this book feels weighty. It looks just right with "Come the hour of the wolf, you are alone. And death is never far away" on the back cover. And the story is a really fitting end, with the haunting images that complement the dialogue so well. Notice how the words of the protagonist ring so true, how the soldier extinguishes his cigarette silently after admonishment. And yes, we get all sorts of rumination on man's existential dilemma and place in the universe. But... this feels really thin for a $3.50 price tag. It's helped out by the original story outline as bonus material, but it could have really used a primer on what's come before, or simply waited for inclusion in the Complete Collection advertised for 2008. As it stands on its own, it basically feels like just an expensive teaser for that. Grade B.

Green Arrow: Year One #1 (DC): Andy Diggle relies way, WAY, WAY too heavily on exposition to let us know who Ollie Queen is, what he's been doing, and his psychological motivations. It all reads extremely like staged dialogue and does not flow naturally. On top of that, there's this weird sort of modernization attempt, where Ollie is supposedly young, but there are Kevin Costner Robin Hood references. It plays really awkward. Jock's art is actually really good, pleasant pencils with amazing yellow hues, but it can't compensate completely for such phoned in writing. The Robin Hood influences are shoved down our throat, like the auctioneer's monologue, or sad little lines like "Looks like I'm still a little, uh... green." Well, hardy-fucking-har. Ollie just comes off like an obnoxious kid, not sympathetic in any way, full of cliched rich boy criticism: "You don't value anything because you never had to earn it." Combine that with the lame end (really, wouldn't a Royal Marine have the balls to just pull the damn trigger? That loses all credibility with me.), it's quite a mess. Grade D+.

I also picked up;

Nextwave: Agents of HATE: Volume 2 Premiere Edition (Marvel): The conclusion to Warren Ellis' comedic commentary on the super-team, using a melange of b-string characters delighting in chaotic melees. Brilliant stuff. Grade A.

Flight: Volume 4 (Villard Books): Though there's been much critical praise both within the industry and in the mainstream media for the previous Flight anthologies, they've largely struck me as typical comic book anthologies. Meaning that they're largely uneven, with a few stories I think are excellent, a few that are awful, and a majority that I'm "passionately ambivalent!" about (another little nod to Stephen Colbert for you!). I'm anxious to see if this breaks the cycle or perpetuates it.

Heartbreak (1130 Studios): Don't know much about creators Jonathan Rivera and Nick DeStefano, but this won me over with an extremely attractive book design and it definitely passed the casual flip test with flying colors.

Spent (Drawn & Quarterly): I'm not a huge fan of Joe Matt, but this beautiful hardcover is chock full of entertaining material, and for under $20, that's hard to pass up.

Clubbing (DC/Minx): I've been a bit underwhelmed so far by the Minx offerings (though Re-Gifters was definitely better than Plain Janes), but I decided to give all the initial releases a go. Hopefully Andi Watson and Josh Howard will impress.


7.04.07 Reviews

Scalped #7 (DC/Vertigo): This time out, Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera offer up some abbreviated little flashbacks that serve as an origin story of Red Crow, all amid a "day in the life" type sequence. It hits some well-placed mildly comedic notes of repetition as he continually endures one thing after another on a day he'd rather just walk through and attempt to have some normalcy with. Aaron continues his rhythmic cadence that rolls off the tongue so sweetly with lines like "in federal courts and fields of fire," these lines that I read over and over and admire how beautifully they're constructed. I love how Aaron manages the script pauses, writing the dialogue in the patterns that people actually talk in, not just what he thinks sounds cool laying on the page. It adds a level of realism, as does Red Crow's faux success being mired in decay and excess. Guera's art is less murky here, with a brighter, smoother method of rendering and panel transitions. The team introduces a Hmong gang element into the mix, expanding the fabric of criminal society under examination, serving up some seldom seen slices of modern American life. They absolutely nail the heartbreaking tone of the end note, which is one of bleak hope. It gives us a much needed point to connect with, allows us to sympathize with the villainous antagonist, and continues the book's rich tradition of astounding complexity: so that "my dreams might again outnumber my regrets." One minor quibble, Red Crow refers to Columbus as a "ginney," which is a choice slang term and all, but it's actually "guinea" if you want to refer to someone of Italian birth or descent in an offensive or disparaging way. Grade A.

Faker #1 (DC/Vertigo): This new mini-series from Mike Carey & Jock jumps right in and never lets up on the relentless tale of manipulation. Even though it makes you a little uncomfortable, you can't help but be enticed with how slick and effective it is, with that despicable self assuredness of the narration. There are some really cool observances of human behavior here and illuminated small little truths like "all you need for a party is two or three people you can let your hair down with; the rest is just bullshit" or "this part takes a long time... let them come up with the idea for themselves." Jock's art seems to be improving for my taste too, less representational as it was in say, The Losers, and more refined with some Mignola influences. The excellent coloring by Lee Loughridge also deserves a nod for the crisp palette he uses. There's a bunch of shit set in motion here and it will be interesting to see how all of the little hooks get resolved and what Carey wants to ultimately say with this book. Grade A.

All Star Superman #8 (DC): This issue is chock full of Morrison moments, whether it's relatively simple bits like the "underverse" or Bizarro "Le-Roj," to the Twlight Zone-y feeling of the "flawed" Zibarro, who is the outcast and has nobody to share an intellectual conversation with. Morrison also still manages to advance the overarching story by revealing Supes' long time ailment to Lois. But for the most part, it's all about using the reverse psychology that has the charm of the Silver Age, but brains of today. And ya' know, basically three words tell you all you need to know about this book: Bizarro National Anthem. It still looks devine courtesy of Frank Quitely, and Morrison is definitely doing his thing, but I can't help but ask what the point of this arc is? Is Morrison just making the rounds and touching upon all the Silver Age Superman tropes during his All Star tour? Not sure about long term direction, but enjoying the ride for the moment. Grade A-.

Thor #1 (Marvel): Thor has never really been an interesting concept to me. If you're an all powerful Norse God of Thunder, it takes some crafty writing skills to establish any sort of plausible peril or interesting plot thread that can't just be immediately resolved with a flick of the wrist (or magical hammer, as it were). Even on the rare occasions when I did enjoy Thor, it was largely because of the greater context (like during Busiek & Perez's Avengers run). Nevertheless, I still decided to give JMS and Olivier Coipel a chance here because I generally enjoy their work. Artistically, Coipel's pencils are ok, but not my favorite style on him. Here, he's employing a softer, Carlos Pacheco-y kind of quality vs. the earlier sketchy and kinetic Coipel (remember his Legion Lost work from DC?), and I personally prefer the energy of that earlier, more unfinished looking style. JMS attempts to sum up some very convoluted continuity in a very minimalistic way. The intent is definitely commendable, but the execution is still kind of... well, when you distill it down high level enough so that it isn't totally confusing, there's nothing really left there aside from a few random images, and things like Beta Ray Bill will remain very confusing for someone not thoroughly steeped in Thor continuity. So, the insta-continuity wash pretty much fails. Within the story, we're basically told that if a God dies, and if mortals believe in you, then you (who? Thor the God or Donald Blake the mortal?) can find the Gods and wake them up (how?) and... (gasp!) they're not dead! (Why?) You just fight your way out of the netherworld (I guess) against some random demons and you (who, again?) can live. Umm, riiiiight. Ok. Wow. So, "dead" really means nothing in the Marvel Universe, does it? I know this is a basic comic book storytelling conceit and all, and in fashion to mock, but damn this feels cheap. I'll blame it on just watching Bridge to Terabithia (which was a completely fucking enjoyable surprise) where death actually meant something. You see, dear writers, if someone's death holds and is irrevocable, it adds meaning to life. Both the character's life and the lives of the people around them that were touched. Every time the death doesn't hold (Jason Todd, Bucky, Cap, the Flashes, Hawkeye, Thor, yes, I'm talking to all of you, and many many more that have occurred and will continue to occur in order to shock and boost sales instead or organically occurring from a plot point), it cheapens the experience of the person's original existence and becomes less meaningful. And umm, I don't really understand what happened on the last two pages. So, take that. Between this and the recent "Clor" debacle, any paltry interest I had in this property has pretty much been killed. And unlike its comic book character counterpart, it's never coming back. Grade D.


Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month

Once again, the ever fluid career landscape precludes me from writing up any sort of in depth review. So, here are a couple of great books that caught my attention; check 'em out!

Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly): Rutu Modan's new book offers up a compelling little murder mystery amid bizarre family dynamics that deepens with each page, revealing small little illuminating moments about life, love, and the awkward moments between people. Grade A.

Conan: Volume 4: The Hall of the Dead & Other Stories (Dark Horse): The Conan stories that Dark Horse is putting out definitely read better collected. They remain fun romps, true to Howard's originals, and when read collected offer the ability to follow the high and low notes in lyrical rhythm. Not as strong or other-worldy as the Tower of the Elephant, but thoroughly enjoyable for even the passive Conan fan. Grade A.