6.29.11 Reviews (If Twitter Were In Charge)

Scalped #50 (DC/Vertigo): Ironic history lesson, talking directly to reader mirrors intensity of series, “fighting to reclaim their pride” Bernet! McCarthy! Grade A.

Batman Incorporated #7 (DC): Disturbing, coherent fun Bat Inc expansion, imagine low budget Batman on Indian reservation in Scalped, oddly works, Burnham art! Grade A.

Simpsons Super Spectacular #13 (Bongo): Watchmen parody which mines the original source material fairly well. Never laugh-out-loud funny, but plenty of grinning. Grade B.


Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 24 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: With this wide open panel, and Dr. Polkinhorn verbally setting the stage for something different, the possibilities of where this will go are equally wide open…

Panel 2: Shoot, I always love when Ryan pushes himself this hard and tries something different. The combination of the design of the panel border, and the levitating figures (which totally remind me of the otherworldly monsters in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode entitled "Hush" – Best. Episode. Ever.) immediately transport us to another place which allows “dream logic” to take over and consume our attention. Capturing the ethereal dream vibe and the unnerving sense of “dream logic” I mention are things that many artists attempt, but few nail. And? Yeah, Ryan nails it. He captures the sense of isolation, the uncertainty, the uncommon physical abilities, all with just enough realism to somehow make it plausible to our sleepy senses.

Panel 3: Here, Ryan certainly captures that fleeting sensation we experience when all dreams inevitably come to an end and begin to fade away from our mental grasp. The end of the dream coincides with Polkinhorn discussing the end of their collaboration, and the end of the book we’re reading nearing the end, in a nice bit of visual, textual, and thematic synchronicity. As Polkinhorn drifts away, you can’t help but notice the barren landscape that Ryan has created for the dream sequence, while all of his artistry we’ve been discussing is in full effect. We see the depth, texture, line weights, balancing in terms of graphic design elements, and general page and panel composition playing out seamlessly.

Panel 4: This is a small little tactical thing, but I really like when Ryan draws that little bursty star design. I always hear “poit!” in my head. I’ve seen him use it to denote slurred hiccupy drunken speech in his book The Machinist, and various times through the ATOD run to denote exasperation or the groggy eye-opening wake-up bit as he does here. It’s really those small little details that can make or break a panel sometimes. If you imagine this panel without those marks or the small little bubbles emanating from Polkinhorn, it would come off pretty cold and lifeless. As is, those small marks carry a lot of meaning and convey something instantaneously that two sentences of text would probably struggle to. That there’s true visual storytelling folks!



DMZ VOLUME 03: PUBLIC WORKS is now broadcasting LIVE FROM THE DMZ. With just six issues left before the series wraps, there's no better time than now to jump on board the site dedicated to Brian Wood’s long-running DC/Vertigo classic. DMZ chronicles journalist Matthew Roth, stuck in an active war zone in a not-too-distant-future America plunged into the Second American Civil War. LIVE FROM THE DMZ takes a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the series, volume by volume, with interviews, never-before-seen concept art, and more, as we count down to final issue #72 this December. There’s no other fan site out there like it and it’s done with the full cooperation of Brian Wood and many of his collaborators.

Killing Elijah Lovejoy

The Death of Elijah Lovejoy (2D Cloud): Would it be exaggerated hyperbole if I said I only wanted to read Noah Van Sciver mini-comics from this day forward? I dunno. I think I could support that statement with just a little bit of anecdotal evidence. I consume literally hundreds of mini-comics each year. Here’s a little secret – most of them aren’t that good. While I admire the guts it takes to create something and put it out into the harsh light of the world, in order to earn critical praise beyond that conception, it also has to function as either a work of art, or at least have some sheer entertainment value, ideally both. There are a precious handful of creators whose work I genuinely look forward to, that seem to engage both paradigms, and Noah’s work is firmly among that select cadre.

The Death of Elijah Lovejoy chronicles an outspoken abolitionist who was persecuted for speaking out against a vigilante justice lynching that occurred in St. Louis in the early 1800’s. The pre-Civil War setting sees Van Sciver focus thematically on both Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech as American hallmarks of civil liberty. I can’t help but think that this is a turning point in Van Sciver’s career. After some toe-dipping jaunts in his earlier work, he seems to be moving away from exclusive autobiography and entering a phase of feature length historical biography. I think it signifies willingness to experiment and a natural evolution for the artist. I couldn’t be happier with the results. It’s easy to see Van Sciver identify with Lovejoy in some ways, and he even supports his evolving publishing venture with an introductory quote by Lovejoy that explains the shared creative ethos of writing about whatever subject he pleases. The Death of Elijah Lovejoy plays like a tasty appetizer for whatever main course awaits us in the form of the pre-Civil War toiling-away-in-obscurity Abe Lincoln book called The Hypo that Van Sciver has been crafting and promising us for months.

Shame on you if you think this is some dry historical account concerning the modalities of anti-slavery reform in the border states of the early 19th Century. It’s got some pretty gritty-ass action too. The story itself plays more like a rousing short action film, full of bluster and fury. Van Sciver is wise to front-load the tale with some text that speeds through the prologue, without eschewing any of the salacious details. The lynching has already occurred. Lovejoy has already spoken out against it. He’s already endured being attacked and some of his printing presses being destroyed. We join the action in media res as he’s moved locations and pro-slavery factions are hot on his heels trying to shut him down at any cost. This move allows Van Sciver to jump straight into the heart of the action without the preamble of “the boring stuff” visually bogging down an intense scene that sees Lovejoy and crew cornered in a warehouse. Van Sciver immerses us in claustrophobic detail that bathes the panels with a sense of impending danger. One of the smaller panels contains something like 35 people in it, just to give you a sense of the figure scale and level of detail we’re talking about. The mob is looming. Danger is imminent. It’s the quiet before the storm. As George Lucas conditioned us to think, “I have a bad feeling about this.” I mean, the title of the book is The Death of Elijah Lovejoy after all.

Technically, an otherwise perfect contribution to Van Sciver’s expanding portfolio is slightly marred by a handful of typos. There are missing commas in some of the longer sentences, some trouble with denoting possession with words ending in “s,” a stray “ablotionist” instead of “abolitionist,” and “gaurded” stands-in for “guarded” several cringe-worthy times. Beyond the concerns of Polly Proofreading, there’s a vast array of craftsmanship on display. I enjoyed a cut-away drawing that reveals the positions of the opposing forces during the shootout. Van Sciver dissects the entire warehouse in a big half page panel to orient us to the dynamics taking place. I also found his panel design very clever. During the most intense scenes, the panels are split triangles, oblong parallelograms, and odd shards which emphasize the chaos ensuing. They’re like little distorted tile mosaics or stained glass windows that congregate roughly to form a larger image. The beauty is in the imperfection. When Lovejoy is finally cornered and attempts to make a break for it, Van Sciver zooms in four times from panel to panel, in rapid succession to Lovejoy’s sweaty face, building the anticipation and controlling the pace magnificently. It’s clear that he’s moved beyond simple storytelling mechanics, and is now beginning to load his pages with stylistic flourishes. Like the best action, it comes suddenly and without warning. Lovejoy is shot, almost at point blank range with a shotgun. The blast that takes Elijah Lovejoy out is inked with a heavy and dire aesthetic, with blurred blood spatter that reminds me of some of the horror elements you might find in Tom Neely’s projects.

Like much of Van Sciver’s work, The Death of Elijah Lovejoy deals with emotional excess. It’s not enough that the pro-slavery mob has hunted down Elijah Lovejoy, cornered him, and killed him, simply because he suggested that a man accused of a crime ought to be tried in a court of law rather than strung up from a tree. No, they must also set the publishing warehouse ablaze and physically destroy his printing press. With Elijah down, acting on the type of principle that the judging eyes of history reward, the small crew loyal to him attempts to defend the press as the building burns down around them. Ultimately they fail, and flee in a somber moment with Elijah Lovejoy’s lifeless body. It’s brave, compassionate, and wise, mirroring the bold ambition with which Noah Van Sciver continues to apply his craft. Grade A.


6.29.11 Releases

The only sure-fire purchase I’ll be making this week is Scalped #50 (DC/Vertigo), which features some historical tales that impact the series either directly or indirectly. Regular series artist R.M. Guera is on board, along with a handful of guest contributors, including the always impressive Igor Kordey. Also worth considering is the issue 50 milestone itself, which so few Vertigo books seem to achieve. I’m interested in Batman Incorporated #7 (DC), provided that Chris Burnham is on art. I’ve seen a couple bloggers refer to his style as “Frank Quitely Lite,” though I think that gives him short shrift. True, it does bear some similarity, and Burnham readily admits to the influence – along with several others, but it’s very much its own thing. DC’s copy indicates that this is a Burnham issue, but with the duplicate art and placeholder entries on their site, along with the havoc that Flashpoint-Oh-Let’s-Just-Reboot-The-Entire-Line is causing, who knows? It’s speculated that Burnham will be on the continuation/relaunch/wrap-up of some form of this title (Batman: Leviathan?) exclusively, so that’ll be swell if it comes to pass. In the same manner that fill-in artists disrupted the flow of Morrison & Quitely on Batman & Robin, so too do the fill-ins disrupt the magic of Morrison & Burnham on Batman Inc. On the graphic novel front, I can recommend the I Am Legion (DDP/Humanoids) softcover. This is a 6 issue series for $19.99. While some of Fabien Nury’s script involving WWII-era Nazi Vampire Espionage Mystery may come off as slow-burning or complex, it actually contains some of John Cassaday’s most dynamic art, like, ever, including that little thing he did with Warren Ellis called Planetary.

20th Century Boys: 14

We learn that Keroyon, who I think was mentioned in a really early volume, is the soba guy we met last issue. The virus is spreading rapidly and global mourners congregate to worship Friend in his death. It’s crazy to see Manjome Inshu, a character portrayed largely as in control, now really lost without Friend, and even doing heroin(?). Initially, Koizumi and Yoshitsune enter Friend World, but find the virtual landscape altered. Haha, we learn that Kamisama owns the bowling alley! Which proves that amid all the gravitas and end of the world prostelitizing, Urasawa still isn’t afraid to use some over-the-top humor. Whatever the heck happened in that Science Lab in 1971 sure must be important, because everyone is descending on that location. Along with Koizumi and Yoshitsune, Manjome enters, Kanna goes in, along with a mysterious other person. In the lab, we learn that Yamane, Sadakiyo, and Donkey are the ones to see a hanging body of Fukube/Friend, which then comes back to life so that they witness a miracle around Friend’s resurrection. Again, this takes on some hard spiritual overtones rooted in Christianity. Even the “death mask” version of Friend appears in the virtual world, so that he seems to be having a spiritual resurrection both in reality and the virtual space all at once. Creepy! At this point, you also realize that all three people who saw this, Yamane, Sadakiyo, and Donkey, are also dead. While in the virtual world, we also get to learn of Yoshitsune’s origins as “the Chief” and why Donkey is probably always running as a kid, because he’s running from Kanna. It’s as if these virtual experiences have shaped the past and created one of those awesome time travel paradoxes. It’s a Mobius Strip loop, like elder Kanna influences a young Kenji, so that Kenji can grow up to influence a young Kanna. At the end, we’re left with our character choices: be the king of evil, or be the hero.


6.22.11 Review

DMZ #66 (DC/Vertigo): [DMZ Countdown Clock™: 6 Issues Remaining] If you subscribe to the theory that the character of Zee is a physical manifestation of New York itself, then this issue speaks volumes about the resilience of the city. There’s something bittersweet about acknowledging this is the last one-shot issue, and next issue will begin the final arc of the series, but oh, does this deliver emotionally. Visually, Riccardo Burchielli changes up his art style in the first few pages to mimic some of the artists who’ve worked on Zee and Martel at various moments in the series. The aesthetic is full of softer edges and thicker line weights, in the style of say, Kristian Donaldson or Andrea Mutti. From Zee’s flashbacks of the nuke, to her first meeting with Matty, the Parco entanglement, and eventually the sloppy order he gave to Angel (which is still heartbreaking to re-live even for a panel or two), this issue is like a time capsule of time lapse imagery chronicling the whole series in brief snippets. One of the provoking questions Brian Wood asks is regarding what an outsider with power means to the natives like zee. Her momentary thoughts of fleeing are ultimately countered by loyalty and the faint whisper of her own intuition. Zee’s bookshelf is a particularly inspired image; we can practically see the entire DMZ saga reflected in Matty’s journals and data back-ups. There’s The Ghosts of Central Park, Trustwell, Parco, the Day 204 Massacre, and Burchielli even works in little nods to himself, with his “Ricxx” tag scrawled in graffiti on the library or on Matty’s notebooks. One of the best things you can say about Zee’s arc is that it’s emotionally honest. It’s clear that she regrets she was right about Matty choosing Parco over her – his big fall as he decided to “start carrying a gun and being Mr. Tough Guy”- yet we still know that she probably loves him by the way she refers to him, without Wood ever having to spell it out for us, that lovable “dork” with “potential.” By the end, we know in our heart that Martel is flat out wrong. The city is not dead. Zee is the city. She’s there. Which means it’ll always bounce back, no matter what it may endure. This is a flawless slice of what DMZ is as a work of political fiction and what it means to Brian Wood and New York City out here in the real world. Grade A+. Please join us for more at LIVE FROM THE DMZ.


Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 23 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: This is a pretty massive half page shot. I like the way that Dr. Polkinhorn’s figure sits mid-panel in silence. It’s quiet and contemplative, which is a nice pause after quite a few panels that were relatively busy with activity and text. Ryan returns some of the artistic techniques to prominence that we commented on before, such as more overt uses of perspective, the creation of depth, and variable line weight to objects in the foreground like the coat rack to the left. It’s a small pet peeve to see someone with their computer positioned in the corner triangle of their desk because it’s not ergonomically correct, but that really has nothing to do with the craft of comics!

Panel 2: Here we have a close-up shot which emphasizes Dr. Polkinhorn composing his thoughts and mentally crafting his response to Ryan. I like the image of his fingertips pressed together in front of his face. It’s one of those instantly recognizable “poses” that conveys the appropriate sense of meaning. We also see the return of that diamond patterned background. After repeated viewing, I think I have concluded that I’m generally not a big fan of this texture, but in contradictory fashion I actually think it works well here. My first reaction to it was that it gives me the impression of Polkinhorn lost in thought, almost like blown up versions of his synapses firing away as he considers his response.

Panel 3: I’m a little torn on this panel. Purely visually, I think it’s just fine in terms of the rendering of the art, the camera angle, the basic figure drawing, the overall panel composition, etc. What jumps out at me is that one word, “Ryan,” the salutation which begins the response. It seems like it’s just hanging there all by itself, in white space. I guess it is balanced by the clock on the other side, but it’s actually not often you see a single word hanging in a panel that isn’t an expletive. [Takes a break to thumb through 5-6 random comics to investigate.] Actually you do see single words that are not expletives occasionally, but they are usually preceded by, or followed by, the small “…” marks which indicate a pause or continuation of a thought. However, because this single word happens to be a representation of a written/typed word, and not a spoken word, we’re locked into it hanging by itself with a comma. I now feel like I’ve spent way too much time on this, haha! My basic observation was just that it looks a little odd all by itself and I wonder what the thought process was for breaking up the text in this fashion. Let’s leave it at that.

Panel 4: I like this zoomed in shot of Polkinhorn typing for a very specific reason, one which I’m not sure if Ryan intended or not. It’s actually kind of a subtle thing. So, from the orientation of the fingers here I think we can assume that Dr. Polkinhorn is using the ol’ “hunt and peck” method of typing. I think that’s interesting because perhaps it comments on his age/generation. At the time of this writing, I’m 37 years old and I remember learning how to type on those old Apple IIe computers in high school. My age group was probably the first that learned to type on computers rather than typewriters, and then had to type professionally on top of that. I’ve worked with a lot of older men, usually who came out of law enforcement to the private sector, and not a one of them could type. It’s just not a skill that any of them ever picked up due to their generation or profession. By the time my age group started working professionally in the early/mid 90’s, the dot com boom was just taking off and it was basically an essential skill. Keep in mind this is all pure speculation as to how it relates to this page of comics. I don’t know what Polkinhorn’s background is or when/if he ever learned to type in the “correct” way. My initial reaction was just that hrmm, this older gentleman is hunting and pecking, which just feels right given his generation.

20th Century Boys: 13

It’s interesting, especially after last issue’s reveal, that nobody can remember Fukube as a kid, yet he was at the reunion and somehow a member of the group? After the death of Friend/Fukube, there seems to be instant panic and chaos. If that little moment of triumph, I’m referring to the silent handshake between Otcho and Maruo, doesn’t bring down the house emotionally, well shoot, then I don’t know what does. It’s so disturbing to see the global group-think behind Friend’s death that seems to be occurring en masse. “Our savior is dead,” psh, he’s becoming an instant martyr and revered as a spiritual leader. The religious overtones and implications of this are quite dangerous. It’s also intriguing that there is a crisis, essentially a power vacuum, within the FDP ruling board in the wake of Friend’s death. It was fun to see Kakuta reunited with his manga friends, and their commitment to draw a manga about the way the world really is, to show the world the truth; there are a bunch of self-referential meta-overtones to this that I really enjoy, the kind of thing you’d expect to see from revered mainstream writers like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, or Warren Ellis. The relationship between Otcho and Kanna always thrills me, because Otcho is perhaps the most extreme or militant of the “uncles” and Kanna certainly has the potential to become the most powerful/militant character in this thing. So, when Otcho commits to keep fighting, and Kanna finally confesses her mother’s involvement, it’s a powerful little scene. In perfect Michael Crichton fashion, Yamane and Kiriko are the type of scientists who become so preoccupied with whether or not they could do something, that they never stop to ask if they should. Finally, Yamane has his crisis of conscience as he realizes Kiriko’s projection of only 1% of humanity surviving the global virus is absolutely accurate. Despite all my gripes about formulaic plot structure, the details do still surprise as I said. It was downright rousing to learn than Haru Namio was the drummer in Kenji’s old band! And that’s why he’s been secretly loyal to the cause, harboring Maruo, and infiltrating Friend’s organization with his special talent. “When the world’s full of fakes and liars, we need something real!” Indeed. The time isn’t noted, but it appears we jump ahead a few months, or maybe a year, because the virus outbreak is in full swing as we see this mysterious soba vendor who knew Kenji deal with it firsthand. It’s almost post-apocalyptic in those scenes. There’s a lady (Kiriko) roaming around with a vaccine, and we learn through Koizumi and her friends that the creepy salted salmon guy is probably (one of) the delivery method(s). At the end, Kanna and Koizumi prepare to descend into Friend Land in a last ditch effort to try and stop it.


6.22.11 Releases

DMZ #66 (DC/Vertigo) is the highlight this Wednesday. *Sniff* It’s the last Zee spotlight issue. Other than that, I can’t find any singles that I’m interested in or that are particularly noteworthy. I did read an interesting tidbit this morning regarding Dynamite Entertainment publishing a Game of Thrones adaptation come September, so that might just tide me over until the second season starts on HBO in Spring of 2012, but that’s really neither here nor there as far as new releases are concerned this week. Anyway, on the graphic novel front, we have 20th Century Boys: Volume 15 (VizMedia) due out, and Terry Moore’s Echo Volume 6: The Last Day TPB (Abstract Studio), which comes hot on the heels of the final issue earlier this month. Moore has been structuring the arcs at 5 issues each, so if I’m not mistaken, this should collect issues 26-30 and be the final regular collected edition. The only criticism I have of these collected editions is that they’ve contained absolutely zero bonus material, their price point doesn’t necessarily make them a significant value over the single issues, AND the printing quality didn’t seem as crisp as the singles. I guess for extras and swank packaging, we’ll all just have to wait until we get the hardcover omnibus edition at San Diego this summer.

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20th Century Boys: 12

Volume 12 picks right up on the “Where is Kiriko?” thread, as Kanna tries to locate her mom. The other missing player is Dr. Yamane, both fairly high up in the Friend organization, having developed the virus, and 2015 is rapidly approaching. The search leads them back to their childhood home. It’s nice to finally catch up with Maruo, who we see with singer Haru Namio, both ostensibly supporting the Friend regime, but actually subversives loyal to The Kenji Faction. In fact, with Namio’s direct access to Friend, his assistant Maruo is in a position to detonate explosives near him, but heeds Kenji’s words and decides not to at that precise moment. We seem to be going down this path that indicates there were 3 individuals involved with the creation of The New Book of Prophecy, Friend, Yamane, and… someone. Yukiji and Yoshitsune, along with Koizumi, also detect an anomaly in the virtual game, a discrepancy between events in 1970 and 1971. They seem to revolve around what exactly happened in the Science Lab, what Donkey saw, which led to Fukube killing Donkey, and even Mon-Chan being killed to protect the information. Finally, we get some sort of answer! Friend is Fukube, and is shot by Yamane – who is in turn shot by FDP forces, after having a change of allegiance. Also – FRIED RICE!

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6.15.11 Reviews

Northlanders #41 (DC/Vertigo): It's of little surprise to anyone familiar with her work that Marian Churchland's style looks like it has more of a kinship with fine art than it does sequential art. I realize I'm creating some faux distinction between supposedly "high brow" and "low brow" art with that statement, but you know what I mean. Her figure work and panel composition looks like what you'd find in a gallery setting, not in the latest issue of Teen Titans or whatever. This is the last of the one-shot issues we'll see in Northlanders, before Brian Wood wows us with the final 9 issue conglomeration of arcs in The Icelandic Trilogy. Churchland's palette is full of pastels thanks to Dave McCaig, who makes us believe that there is a watercolor effect at play. Ultimately, Wood's tale of Birna Thorsdottir is about the common pragmatism that a daughter has learned from her parents, along with her ultimate sense of isolation. She really can't rely on anyone except her own memories of who she is. It's a somber small tale with grand clear ideals. When you get to the parts about having her birthright usurped, it's impossible not to come full circle and think of Sven in the very first arc of Northlanders. Well, just 9 more issues until... *woosh*... the title will be gone. It's the type of book that fits nicely into that category of "Best Book You're Not Buying." Grade A.

Avengers: Infinity Quest #1 (Marvel): This is one of those Marvel Must Have editions that collects issues 7 through 9 of the current Avengers book. At $4.99 for three issues worth of content, it's quite a bargain. It's Bendis and Romita, Jr. giving us a tale about The Hood attempting to acquire the Infinity Gems, assumably to reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet. He's already infiltrated Attilan and FF Tower to get two of them and has easily taken out the Red Hulk, so the stakes are pretty high. There are a few examples of some stilted dialogue and about 5-6 pages of some horribly slow decompression, but for the most part this was a really engaging investigation into the gems, starring everyone from Medusa and Lockjaw, to Madame Masque, and The Illuminati. One of the most enjoyable fan moments is having Steve Rogers and nearly all of the assembled Avengers teams track Iron Man to his Illuminati meeting and the confrontation that ensues. It furthers the rift between Tony and Steve and creates some interesting character moments in the process. Maybe it's just because I was hungry for something to read, but it made me feel like I should give the Avengers titles another look. I read Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Avengers for three issues each when they all debuted, and then just... stopped. I plan on picking up Secret again when Warren Ellis jumps on as writer for issue 16's arc, but that's about it. The price point is probably the most significant incentive to participate here, but for good ol' fashioned Marvel U superheroics, you could do a lot worse. Grade A.

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20th Century Boys: 11

Man, I can’t believe how quickly I’ve taken in so many volumes of 20th Century Boys. As always, here are some of my random reactions as we keep moving forward. There’s an early shot in this volume that I just love. It’s Kanna in the rain desperate to hear Uncle Kenji’s voice again. Urasawa really sells it visually, so that you can almost feel the cold damp rain on your skin. It’s interesting to see how Kenji responds to his failure with the band. It would be easy for him to point fingers and blame others to assuage his ego, but he just takes responsibility and moves forward. I like seeing how Kenji’s words shape Kanna’s decision-making for years to come. Amid the flashbacks to Bloody New Year’s Eve, we’re left wondering if she’ll get it together in time to save Koizumi. Of course we learn that the main Dream Navigator has a larger role to play – why else would she have been moved onto the board? – she’s Manjome Inshu’s mistress. In typical fashion, we pick up a thread previously mentioned, that Friend will be made “President of the World.” The awakening of Kanna’s powers is played fairly subtly, but it does remind me of the way mutant powers are slowly revealed during adolescence in things like Brian Wood’s Demo or the X-Men, particularly the latter as a reaction to atomic paranoia, and the corollary that represents. Another big piece of the puzzle seems to be Mon-Chan’s “Memo of 1970.” There seems to be some possible misdirection afoot in the use of the term “Holy Mother.” We assume it refers to Kanna’s mom, but might it also refer to the Dream Navigator mistress as a possible surrogate? More and more, “rejection” is a term that keeps popping up and is slowly explained. As a child, I’m thinking Friend probably felt social rejection, so his use of the term now exacts revenge on what he perceives as a cold society. Sadakiyo kills Mon-Chan over the memo, but not before he was able to give it to Koizumi. Space aliens are referred to again! I just know that’s going to turn into something. One of the things I’ve been noticing is the repetitive formula Urasawa uses, but he does still keep us guessing within that structure. It’s never predictable in the specifics. It’s like the narrative tools he uses are common and formulaic, but certainly not the specific plot developments. I appreciate the way that Sadakiyo sacrifices himself to save Yoshitsune and the girls as redemption for killing Mon-Chan. The other major story thread is Kanna attempting to locate her mother, who was a bacteriologist working at a Friend compound. We also learn that in this small town there were early outbreaks of the virus that largely went unreported. It does make me wonder why the FDP would not have destroyed the town and the remains of the hospital to cover their tracks(?), though the naming convention of the “Amicus Foundation” is nice. It seems like Dr. Yamane becomes the latest character MacGuffin, with Otcho and the manga artist on his trail too. The cliffhanger reveal here confirms something we already suspected, via a mysterious message in a film clip, that Kanna’s mom helped develop the virus (or failed to develop a vaccine in tandem at least), indicating “I am Godzilla,” responsible for 150,000 deaths, and that history will end in 2015.

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The Poor Old Collyer Boys

From The Wikipedia List of Unusual Deaths: The Collyer Brothers (Self-Published by Emi Gennis): Gennis chronicles the sad tale of two white brothers living in a Harlem brownstone in the early 1900’s. They pursue different careers, but eventually become shut-ins as the neighborhood changes around them. They become increasingly reclusive and withdrawn, while mystery swirls around their activities. Local legend begins to suggest there are riches inside that house, little does society know that at least one is likely a schizophrenic hoarder, while the other suffers an unfortunate stroke that blinds him. For one reason or another, be it fascination, jealousy, paranoia, greed, envy, the list is endless really, people complain and the cops come to investigate. After 19 days of digging in a Winchester Mystery House type of self-imposed exile, and the removal of 103 tons of junk, the police discover both brothers dead, just 8 feet from each other. It's proof that truth is always stranger than fiction, and it's a deeply engaging tale to stage a mini-comic around. Gennis leaves us with a haunting final image that, and this will be an oblique reference, reminds me of a piece drawn by a female artist with the handle “Line-O,” last seen with a highly detailed piece in the Boston Comics Roundtable offering Inbound 5: The Food Issue. That’s the second time with as many Gennis books that I’ve mentioned The Boston Comics Roundtable, so maybe there’s a potential new group of collaborators there. Grade A.

Spazzing Out

Spaz! #4 (Self-Published by Emi Gennis): Aesthetically speaking, the art of Emi Gennis immediately reminded me of the style of Marjane Satrapi. I like the bold use of negative space and liberal inks that Gennis uses to punctuate her panels. Some artists are so afraid of “messing up” their precious blank white pages that they refrain cautiously, but Gennis is bolder with her application and I appreciate the fearlessness. For someone clearly a little paranoid and concerned with other people’s perceptions of her, it’s nice to see a confident side to what I assume is a quirky personality. The weight of that Satrapi-influenced style is certainly made lighter by Gennis softer lines and caricature type features, such as her characteristic big eyes which she uses to examine the world.

The opening piece, “Squat,” details the joy of traveling abroad and discovering the bathroom etiquette other cultures. The shock to our delicate Western sensibilities is funny, sure, but I actually liked some of the artistic decisions more than the content. For example, the inventive way that she depicts Chinese women gossiping about her with faux-Asian characters mingled with just a few recognizable words she can parse is a small bout of brilliance. Gennis moves on to show us a one-pager of her fears, from the self-effacing understandable, to the totally paranoid. We see an adaptation of a Wiki entry about an unusual death, which makes us certain that Gennis also isn’t afraid to change-up her style. There’s more technique on display in this piece, more detail, more cross-hatching, more shading, and more line weight variation. I enjoyed her anti-bacterial rant, which is rooted more in science vs. conventional wisdom. I swear, I’ve had this same conversation with people who think that cold air will make them sick, or don’t understand how vaccine resistant superbugs get created, but I digress…

Another winner is her story about beating her mom’s curfew and attending parties. She seems to not only have a byzantine and entertaining system for it, but also dips her toe into showcasing the prototypical party scene and nails every disparate element of it, from the guy puking in the corner, to the late night Taco Bell run, to bumming semi-sober rides home off of total strangers. "The Boston Molasses Disaster" was great fun and lended a feeling of déjà vu. Sure enough, for an alternate take on the same incident, check out "The Great Boston Molasses Flood" by Jaime Garmendia and Dirk Tiede in Inbound 4: A Comic Book History of Boston from the gang at The Boston Comics Roundtable. This is one of the more entertaining mini-comics I’ve read recently. Like all great autobiography, it’s not merely mindless navel-gazing for the sake of itself, but it’s a reflexive exercise wherein we learn more about ourselves. By examining the world around her, Gennis reveals her own insecurities and perceptions, which make her more self-aware in the process. Grade A.

Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 22 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: I’ve always tried to guess where Ryan was going to go next while waiting for a page, but he manages to stay one step ahead of me every time. When we first see Dr. Polkinhorn on campus in this first image, it becomes clear that he’s using a very sly transition to shift us from his own POV to that of the good doctor. By using the content of his email as a constant in our mind, our eyes are free to follow the shift from Ryan’s apartment as he crafts the email, all the way to Polkinhorn’s office as he subsequently reads it. It’s very clever, very subtle, and the type of thing you’d see Frank Miller do in The Dark Knight Returns or even Alan Moore in Watchmen. There are multiple instances in these revered 1986 works where a character will begin saying something on one page, and as you flip the page, you’re no longer seeing the character, but what they’re describing or alluding to, while their constant dialogue pulls you from one scene to the next. Did I just compare Ryan to old Frank Miller or pre-loony Alan Moore? Hey, I grew up reading DC superhero comics, what can I say? It’s part of my lexicon.

Panel 2: This is another one of those panels, like we saw on the previous page, where Ryan is creating synchronicity between what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing, so that there’s a tertiary layer of meaning being conveyed to the reader. There’s what we see, what we read, and then our interpretation of the blending of the two. The text makes a point about autobiography being an exploratory and interactive experience, regardless of whether or not the creator’s slant is to present truth or fact, or to even distance themselves from the content displayed. At the same time we’re processing that, Ryan has removed himself from the proceedings and firmly shifted the POV to Polkinhorn, an act of deliberate distancing. I’ll just say that it takes a pretty confident storyteller to no longer be preoccupied with the mere composition of images or function of the dialogue, but to then begin manipulating our perceptions to make a point.

Panel 3: I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a whole lot going on in this panel, other than continuing the shift we’ve been describing. From a purely technical standpoint, I do like the way that Ryan has created texture on the wood door. It looks grainy and just right, the “busy” nature of the background makes the clean sharp hand in the foreground “pop” against the contrasting texture.

Panel 4-5: Toward the end of this page, I honestly started to look back and feel like we’ve been digesting a significant amount of text. That said, I was glad to see Ryan wrap up his email in the final panel because I think if he’d gone on for another page it would probably be too much and the text would start to feel dense as it’s taking up nearly half of the page real estate. However, I realize that there’s a possibility now that Dr. Polkinhorn will respond to his email. I think that’s a safe play though, because even if he does, it will change the speaker and really shift the POV even further away from a staunchly autobiographical perspective, so it’ll be different and interesting even if there are similarities. Clear as mud? But hey, who knows if that’s where Ryan will go as he starts to wrap up this issue. At the technical level, I do enjoy how Ryan has swung the camera around behind Polkinhorn so we can read the tail end of Ryan’s email over his shoulder.

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6.15.11 Releases

Northlanders #41 (DC/Vertigo) comes hot on the heels of the cancellation announcement for the series. I supposed I could go into some long-winded tirade about what a travesty this is vis-à-vis the current state of the comic book marketplace and what it says about modern reading audiences, but sometimes I just feel like… what’s the point? Books get cancelled. Some very good books get cancelled. The demands of commerce sometimes outweigh the needs of art. When I’m being logical about it instead of just reacting emotionally, I feel like it’s a minor miracle that a book ostensibly about Vikings, without any easily identifiable main character that recurs, reaching #50 in the first place is a pretty fucking grand accomplishment. Congratulations to Brian Wood and all of the amazing artistic talent involved over the years. Kudos for trying something innovative, a sequentially numbered series of mini-series essentially – with alternate trade dress and multiple jumping-on points (differentiating it from say, the Hellboy formula of a series of mini-series, not sequentially numbered, with limited jumping on points…). Anyway, that entire first arc with Sven, the issue 17 one-shot, Zezelj on The Shield Maidens, yeah, I’ll carry some fond memories of this book with me. At the very least, I’m glad I have something like HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation, with that level of intelligence and stark beauty, to replace it in my pop culture consumables.

Moving along, Marvel offers Invincible Iron Man #505 (Marvel) and I can’t say I’m as thrilled about this as I used to be. It seems like ever since the soft-reboot of the numbering schema to #500, I just haven’t really been into this book. Maybe it’s Fear Itself or some other impending publishing shake-up (still can't believe they're ending Uncanny X-Men!), but it just feels like it’s been treading water for a while and isn’t doing anything of consequence. I have to say that I’ll be putting it in the “maybe” column this week. On the graphic novel front, I can heartily recommend the Legion Lost HC (DC), which should have been collected years ago, but it makes sense now why DC would have waited to get this out in order to tempt audiences for the two new Legion series coming out in September. This story follows the events of the Legion of The Damned mini-crossover which was also recently collected. I cannot, however, heartily recommend Justice League: Cry for Justice TPB (DC). It is easily one of the worst things I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s the very epitome of misogynistic, illogical tragedy porn storytelling, with near incomprehensible art at the technical level, full of conflicting light sources, poor choreography, and a penchant for cheap titillation. The worst part is probably that with a quick glance, it looks great, in this slick confectionary style with glossy paper and garish coloring. It’s all empty calories though, kind of like when you send your kid to school with lunch money, the idealistic parent in you imagining some tasty meal involving whole grain bread and perfectly manicured carrot sticks, but all they come home with is a crumpled up Charleston Chew wrapper in their pocket, while your mind flashes forward to the next dentist visit and thoughts of childhood obesity... and who knows where the rest of that 5 bucks went? It’s almost worth getting as an exercise in proof by counter-example; this is how comics should not be done.

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Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 21 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: Random observation, but this is the first time since I began reviewing these pages one at a time, that I actually went back and re-read the previous page to refresh my memory. I’m not sure if that has more to do with the, uhh, “memorability” of the text, or just my own faulty memory and the myriad things I have on my mind right now. I still think the typed-looking text is presented nicely without hardline borders. The most noticeable element in this panel for me is the way that Ryan’s upright posture seems to mirror the professional tone of what he’s typing. He’s no longer joking around, but phrasing things in a more serious, academic manner.

Panel 2: As the camera swings around the room here, I was curious to see if Ryan was going to do a rotoscope 360 degree view of the space as things move on, but it seems clear that he’s beginning to pull out of the shot as the panels progress. An interesting note here is that as Ryan begins discussing the relatively straightforward nature of non-fiction works, the visuals again seem to subtly mirror that theme. He presents this panel in a more traditional perspective, an equally straightforward view of the environment, which doesn’t editorialize much, attempting to merely present “fact.” This parity, of visual approach and textual ideas, continues throughout the page.

Panel 3: First off, we’re continuing to pull out of the environment to add greater context. We began in Panel 1 with a closer shot of Ryan inside the space, Panel 2 was still inside the space but pulling out, and now with Panel 3 we’re seeing things from an exterior position. The parity I mentioned above between ideas presented in the text and where we find ourselves in relation to our “subject” also continues. Ryan mentions the “understanding of individual human experiences,” and as we consider that, we find ourselves outside an apartment building in a position to consider such an example of just one of those many experiences.

Panel 4: I love the way this conceptual throughline seems to keep going. Visually, we’re now further removed from where we started. The camera is pulling back at an accelerated pace now. Similarly, as Ryan mentions a non-fiction reading may be just a “glimpse into another person’s life,” we get that fleeting feeling from the aesthetic that as the camera races out, this is but one of those glimpses flying by us outside what could be a random apartment building in a random city in a random autobiographical piece.

Panel 5: This panel punctuates the two dynamics we’ve been following. First, not only have we left the interior of Ryan’s apartment and hovered outside the immediate area, but now we’ve been pulled even further away, back to the SDSU campus. As Ryan’s text has gone from a very specific individual human experience, it’s now become tied to larger political or social issues in the annals of history, “relevant to archival research” that one would often find occurring in a university setting, as the camera happens to settle on just such a place. This overall sequence is such a strong reminder that there is so much purpose behind the artistic decisions Ryan is making. There is no haphazard setting or stray line of dialogue; they each serve their purpose. I imagine a pyramid shaped set of tiers, where each line and panel on the page form the components of a singular idea on the lowest strata, that idea supports a mid-section example in the middle of my imaginary pyramid, happening on the page as a formed unit, and that fully formed unit supports the overall goals of the book or project in the most strategic point at the top of the pyramid. It’s the type of classic story composition you’d see in a screenwriting book, where individual story beats on the lowest rung then form individual scenes in the middle tier, which form the throughline objective of the movie at the top.

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20th Century Boys: 10

When I see the Mystery Gambler, Takasu (Dream Navigator), and Father Nitani (Yakuza Catholic – the name of my new band, coincidentally), having been introduced earlier and then all named in volume 10, it makes me start to see a formulaic pattern forming to how Urasawa is crafting this long story. It reminds me of the way Chuck Dixon used to write some of the Batman titles; you could literally see the formula from whatever book he’d read. In every issue, there would always be one story thread being introduced, one continuing from a previous issue, and one being ended, like clockwork. Anyway, I enjoyed Yukiji and Kanna bonding over ramen, and the general way that food and music pervade the series, along with other pop culture references like the Toyota 2000GT. Damian Yoshida (member of the band) finally gets named, so it makes me think he will begin to feature more prominently in forthcoming volumes. Koizumi and Kanna (schoolmates) finally meet! Though it doesn’t quite go as successfully as we’d like. There are lots of meet-ups actually, including Yukiji and Kamisama. Koizumi goes from Friend Land to Friend World. Uh-oh. We learn that the new English teacher under the mask is Sadakiyo, but that he is not Friend, merely the Director of the Friend Musuem, who appears to be having a change of heart. Part of that formula Naoki Urasawa uses is to introduce a future concept that will then get fleshed out in forthcoming volumes. For example, here we have the idea of “The President of the World” being inaugurated at some point in the future, assumably Friend. It’s also the second or third hard mention of space aliens, and I can’t believe that’s coincidence. The bombshell that the audience knew, but that gets dropped on the character this time out, is that Friend is Kanna’s father.


6.08.11 Reviews

Echo #30 (Abstract Studio): It’s kind of a random observation, but I just thought it was interesting for Moore to end with a Cicero quote after dazzling us with Einstein and Oppenheimer gems for nearly the entire run of the series. That aside, he ends things with a breakneck pace and a literal Big Bang at the Phi Collider. It’s got the denouement of a big action movie, where the stakes feel even higher because we’re so emotionally invested in all of the characters. I like the larger notes about the frail existence of man as a race that has the power to end itself, along with the idea that the true grandeur of an idea is not in itself, but in its execution and application. I can’t believe I’m going to say this after nearly 30 issues of perfection, but it fell apart for me just a tad when we hit that interesting 9-panel grid page that provides exposition for what just happened, and effectively recaps the narrative sweep of the entire series. I’m not sure if it worked completely; I’m not sure if it was logically or emotionally satisfying in the way I expected. So, let’s see, I guess Julie/Annie repelled the dark matter black hole, didn’t die in the process, the suit was expelled from Julie’s body, Ivy got re-aged, the bad guys die, and the good guys are all ok in the rubble of a more-than-thermonuclear explosion? And this all happens largely off panel? Hrmm. I know that the action bits aren’t important, that the series has been rooted in interpersonal relations since its inception. I know that the science was always dubious at best, rooted in realistic lingo, sure, and that Moore made some plausible leaps where we’ve been suspending disbelief thus far… but… something felt just a tiny bit rushed or something, almost as if he needed two issues to wrap up the end rather than just one, but couldn't get it all wrapped in time for San Diego Con(?). I thought it was also interesting that he seems to shift the protagonist POV from Julie to Ivy. I always thought we were viewing this adventure through the eyes of Julie, but Moore admitted in an interview that he shifted it to being through Ivy’s perspective, that she was his X-Files character and this was just another case for her. That’s… interesting, but I’m not sure if the shift works this late in the game. Anyway, that was a long digression that makes it sound like I have a bigger problem with this than I actually do. I was really hoping that Moore would also reveal more specifically what’s in Julie’s little embarrassing box. From the contextual clues we’ve been given, I guess it’s like uhh, a vibrator or some kind of sex toy…? That’s cute and all, but, maybe this is because I’m from the liberal left coast and have dated some pretty adventurous women, I know Moore is from Texas, which is staunchly more conservative, but uhh, do dudes really end their marriages because their wives are into the “perversion” of a dildo or anal beads or something? Sheesh. That’s surprising to me. I mean, what else could it have been? But hey, don’t pay any attention to my petty squabbles. This is one of the best series in the last 5 years. Period. Moore recently confirmed that there is indeed going to be a hardcover omnibus debuting at San Diego Comic-Con. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. He’ll also have copies of the first issue of his new series, Rachel Rising, available for purchase. And if you’re into the Vertigo book Fables, I hear he’ll be penciling an issue of that as well! Grade A.

Scalped #49 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron and RM Guera conclude the “You Gotta Sin To Get Saved” arc with an insane close quarters shootout between Dash and Catcher, as they supposedly confront Gina’s killer. There’s isn’t a whole lot more I can say without getting into specifics, but Scalped just never fails to surprise with these outrageous, yet still somehow plausible, murky morality situations. I love it. I like the idea Red Crow presents about men being better than the worst of our actions. Is that possible in a world where choices may prove that your only loyalty is to yourself? Guera has a little bit of trouble in clarifying who the other man is, but by the end they seem to stick the landing. Grade A.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1 (DC/Vertigo): Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy spin off a 5 issue mini-series that’s set in pre-WWII era New York. Dave Stewart’s colors are marvelous over Murphy’s pencils. Despite being so weary of vampires in pop culture, I liked the basic premise about the shadow world and vampires having infiltrated the newspaper industry to help cover their tracks, but that quickly gets abandoned for some vampire cure bit. The action is certainly well choreographed, but I’m curious to see if Snyder can distinguish this story from the myriad other half-breed vampire redemption (Blade comes to mind first) things available in movies, TV, and novels. I enjoyed the talented female lead Felicia Book, the time period gives the whole project a smart visual feel, there are certainly many story layers at work, and the cool ring of V.M.S., that’s Vassals of the Morning Star, does the trick for me. I might give it another issue before I decide if I’m all in or will postpone enjoyment for a discounted trade someday. Grade A-.

The 52 First Issues *I* Would Publish

I’m not the first to do this, but I’ll certainly be in the first wave of bloggers to do so. Here are the 52 new titles I’d launch if I could. I think it’s a pretty healthy mix of some of the existing ideas, with some complete departures I’d like to see. Some are super plausible, some not so much, but it’s sort of one of those dreamcasting projects that often yields interesting discussion. This is largely off the top of my head and beyond #13 or so, not really in any particular order. There's no bad ideas in brainstorming!

1) Action Comics by George Perez (sorry, but this would be one of just two titles not switching to the renumbering and allowed to continue for honorary purposes, we just have to get it to a “natural” #1,000, would alter the trade dress to look like all the other “new” titles though, love the idea of George Perez on the general property, but would switch him to this title instead of the main Superman book since we’ll have the need for plenty of guest stars in the Superman corner of NuDCU, Perez has been around long enough to warrant a stint as writer as well, this is an adventure book)

2) Detective Comics by Greg Rucka & Davide Gianfelice (see above re: numbering, must reach #1,000, this is a hard core crime book, loads of guest stars, the companion to the superhero Batman book, as Action Comics will be the companion title to Superman, think Rucka on Gotham Central and Gianfelice’s gritty style as seen in Northlanders and Greek Street)

3) Superman by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (the big superhero book with primary focus on Kal-El, not the ensemble that Action Comics will be, big and iconic, the team is now free from Ex Machina duties and that 50 issue run)

4) Supergirl by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (I know BW is no longer exclusive at DC and was worked out of the relaunch (lame!), but speaking purely as a fan, this project really needs to happen, so as long as we’re dreamcasting I can do whatever I want, this will be accessible to young women, yet strong enough to contend with the big superhero titles the boys like)

5) Batman by Joss Whedon & Carlos Pacheco (prime time superhero book, no holds barred, Bruce Wayne as Batman, slick memorable lines with high gloss art)

6) Batman Inc. by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham (ok, I too want to see G’Mo finally wrap up his take on the character after 6 years or so, this should be the 12 issue maxi-series, ala All Star Superman, that finally is the definitive take on the character, if Burnham isn’t on board, then I’m not interested)

7) Batman & Robin by Kurt Busiek & Scott McDaniel (kids book, Bruce as Batman, Damian as Robin, Talia shows up with Ra’s Al Ghul, lots of father and son stuff, high octane poignancy, see Busiek’s coming of age book Arrowsmith)

8) Red Robin & The Outsiders by Peter J. Tomasi & Kenneth Rocafort (I sort of like Tim staying on as Red Robin since Damian will be regular Robin, Bruce will be Bats, and Dick will return to the Nightwing role, this should be the relatively dark and grim one, I actually kinda’ dug the whole Red Hood, Arsenal, Starfire casting of Red Hood & The Outlaws, but felt it needed some tweaks, should serve as the counterpoint to the relatively cheery Teen Titans)

9) Oracle by Gail Simone & Carla Speed McNeil (sorry, but I think Babs is infinitely more interesting as Oracle, why have Batgirl when we’ll have a Batwoman?, would like to see her as the primary information broker in the DCU, story arcs with lots of rotating guest stars from all these other titles)

10) Nightwing by John Cassaday (since DC wants to let artists wet their hands at writing, let him write it too, I actually don’t mind the costume redesign with the red parts, Dick Grayson is probably my favorite mainstream character, so don't fuck it up please)

11) Batwoman by JH Williams III (duh)

12) Justice League by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee (still don’t think this creative team will last long, but fine, keep it, prove me wrong, Cyborg needs a redesign though, that’s horrible)

13) Justice League International by J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire (love the idea of a JLI title, but the creative team really needed shaking up)

14) Justice League: Dark by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang (I’m ok with the title and think it makes sense to house all the “magic, science, and religion” types here, rotating cast depending on missions, Swamp Thing, Deadman, The Spectre, all those clowns, but Traci 13 must be the team leader forever or I’m out, gotta’ reprise the Dr. 13: Architecture & Mortality creative team too)

15) Teen Titans by Nick Spencer & Kevin O’Neill (Spencer is proving himself on team books and the gravitas of the art should sell this one, still need to work out the specific team members, but you get the idea)

16) Planetary by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj (a long shot considering the property and creative team, but there’s nobody I’d rather trust with a Warren Ellis legacy property and with Zezelj’s murky style on art, and their proven collaborations, this would take it all new places, with the universes effectively merged, there’s no limit to what types of missions/investigations the team can have)

17) Wildcats by Christopher Priest & Eduardo Risso (yep, WildStorm in the house in a very noir way, Grifter, Voodoo, Spartan, Zealot, the whole gang, show 'em how it's done guys)

18) Doom Patrol by Joe Casey & Sean Murphy (these two can go crazy in all the unexplored corners of the NuDCU, psychedelic pop comics in Murphy’s kinetic and dangerous style)

19) Elongated Man & Plastic Man: Stretching Logic by Noah Van Sciver (kids book, title might still need some work, but these two need to team up for ridiculous adventures with this indie talent)

20) Kamandi: The Last Man on Earth by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee (while everyone else has gotten younger in the NuDCU, Kamandi has been aging in the apocalyptic future, he is now the last MAN on Earth, reunite the Inhumans team of Jenkins and Lee for the right look and feel)

21) Solo II by Various (quarterly, lots of pages, creator spotlight just like the first, it will lose money, but it’s a commitment by DC to creators because the properties shouldn’t solely come first)

22) Wednesday Comics II by Various (weekly, ambitious, healthy mix of veterans, up-and-comers, and indie talent)

23) Birds of Prey by Paul Cornell & Yanick Paquette (I’m a little dubious about the need for this book, but let’s give it a go, the roster needs work and Manhunter needs to be on the team, limit interaction with Oracle to distinguish titles, Cornell has been on my radar since Pete Wisdom and MI-13, and Paquette has done some good X-Men work)

24) John Constantine by Kody Chamberlain & R.M. Guera (hot off of Sweets, DC should sign Chamberlain before Marvel does, and Guera has more than proven himself on Jason Aaron’s Scalped)

25) Tiny Titans by Whoever Does It Now (if it ain’t broke…)

26) Aquaman by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis (I could really care less, so we’ll let this one stand and see how she goes)

27) Flash by Geoff Johns & Kyle Baker (hopefully Geoff can keep up on the writing chores of so many books and his executive duties, because I really want to see Baker pencil this in the style he used for Hawkman in Wednesday Comics)

28) Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy (fine, I’m not changing this either, because apparently the market has spoken and will support such nonsense, but this should be the main Hal Jordan, primarily Earth-based book, because…)

29) Green Lantern Corps by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (swiped from some Wednesday Comics dreamcasting I did a while back, Drunken Scotsman will need something to do since I booted him off almost everything else, this should be bizarre psychedelic space adventure, ala John Stewart in Green Lantern: Mosaic, I expect it to cross paths with Paul Pope’s New Gods to get supremely weird)

30) Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang (really the only keeper from the actual relaunch that I like the creative team and am excited to be purchasing, at least for three issues, can’t think of any other team that would really make me long for Wonder Woman)

31) Jonah Hex by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Simon Gane (I’m as surprised as the next guy that there remains a market for Hex, but DnA are versatile and Jordi Bernet should be brought in for rotating arcs with Gane, his work on Northlanders was breathtaking)

32) Blackhawk by Kevin Nowlan (he’s done just about everything else, so here’s another instance where we’ll let an artist try his hand at writing)

33) Shazam! by Neil Gaiman & Ryan Sook (not a kids book, Gaiman can sort out the magic bits no doubt and Sook will bring in the right gravitas)

34) The New Gods by Paul Pope (self-explanatory, but let him run wild with weird Kirby style sci-fi futurism)

35) House of Mystery by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Tom Neely (infusion of indie art talent with reliable writing duo, throwing the old DC fans a bone, should have a very EC Comics feel, swiped from my recent Wednesday Comics dreamcasting)

36) House of Secrets by Devin Grayson & Julia Gfrorer (infusion of indie talent with MIA female writer, expect The Endless to show up a lot here, more ethereal than the pragmatism of the above title, also swiped like the above idea)

37) Atom & Hawkman by Karl Kerschl & Juan Jose Ryp (I actually like this character pairing, and it’s another example of trying to placate older fans who will complain that we’re ruining everything, The Atom portion was swiped from my Wednesday Comics idea, but I added Hawkman here to round out the use of characters)

38) Zatanna by Darwyn Cooke & Riccardo Burchielli (rogue magi, she’s not interested in the team up of JL: Dark, lots of tension, crossovers with John Constantine)

39) Firestorm by Chuck Dixon & Nathan Fox (loud crazy action, garish colors, he's friends with Blue Beetle, also… when not powered up, the new Firestorm is a wheelchair bound teenager, a gay Filipino kid from LA, parents have $, college educated, let’s just get all of the character diversity issues out of the way at once)

40) Red Tornado by Warren Ellis & Jason Shawn Alexander (big red robot, crazy sci-fi, lots of time-jumping, also swiped from my ideas for a Wednesday Comics follow up)

41) Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz & Amanda Conner (classic LSH writer with modernized artist, primary title)

42) Legion Lost by Mark Waid & Joe Quinones (really pushing for a reinvigoration of the Legion, nice to see NuDCU embrace the idea and while the “Legion Lost” title isn’t new, it’s a solid one, Waid has the chops to handle continuity and cast, and Quinones’ slick style should keep up nicely)

43) Dr. Fate by James Stokoe (yes!)

44) Hawk & Dove by Rafael Grampa (Rob Liefeld? Are you kidding?)

45) Animal Man by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman & Dan Green (I have some issues with this, but we’re getting toward the end, so I’m just powering through)

46) Mister Terrific by Scott Snyder & Sergio Cariello (I’m actually kind of interested to see what can be done with this character on a solo title, this is a proven writer, and Cariello is now free since his Dynamite book The Lone Ranger has wrapped)

47) Static Shock by Sterling Gates & Scott McDaniel (good choice for artist, but needed to tweak the writer)

48) Green Arrow by Peter Milligan & Matthew Southworth (I’m not sure why, but this creative team sells me on an otherwise uninteresting character)

49) Captain Atom by Christos Gage & Travis Charest (the artist selection is a long shot, but if it could be done, would certainly be a destination book)

50) Grifter by Jason Aaron & Mario Alberti (the choice of writer seems golden, though I’m not sure how you’d pull him from Marvel for a company owned property, and Alberti’s sly work on the X-Men/Spider-Man stuff was inspiring)

51) Voodoo by Dave Gibbons (hey, I have a soft spot for this Wildcat, was surprised to see DC giving it a go, but I’d let Gibbons write and draw it for as long as he wanted)

52) DC: Silver Age Adventures by Darwyn Cooke (the final bone I’ll throw to the whiners, endless mining of prior continuity, yes, those stories still “matter” and can be used for entertainment, think The New Frontier, only monthly)

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Looking Ahead

Well, I'm always bitching that there aren't any good books out there and my reading pile is dwindling. It's nice to know that there will be a definite addition in the future. The tone from this single image and the somber quote feels right up my dystopian alley. I'm all in for anything Brian Wood writes and I have such fond memories of Kristian Donaldson from their IDW collaboration Supermarket, not to mention the few issues of DMZ he turned in.

Poit! @ Poopsheet Foundation

Check out my latest mini-comic review over at Poopsheet Foundation.

6.08.11 Releases

Easily, the biggest draw for me this week is Echo #30 (Abstract Studio), which is the final issue of Terry Moore’s latest project. I love the way he’s merged 1960’s atomic paranoia straight out of Marvel’s heyday and the type of interpersonal relationship dynamics that made SiP so compelling for so long. I recently re-read the entire run in anticipation of this issue, and it seems clear to me that it’s basically a movie pitch. It’s the right length, has a three act structure, and the type of cast that would lend itself to such an adaptation. Here’s to hoping the movie option sticks, that we get a nice hardcover collected edition in time for Comic-Con, that it lives up to the very high bar the series has set with every issue, and to keeping an eye out for Moore’s follow up project, which was recently announced. It’s refreshing to see a book so well-conceived and well-executed come to a tidy planned ending. Scalped #49 (DC/Vertigo) is also out this week, and is in this weird three-way race/tie at any given moment for best publication along with Brian Wood’s DMZ and Northlanders. The last item on my radar screen is American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1 (DC/Vertigo). Let me be clear that I’m thoroughly tired of vampires being in my pop culture diet (this from someone who used to host Tuesday night pizza/beer parties to watch the new ep of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), but you’ve just got to love Sean Murphy’s art. Though I don’t know a thing about the regular series, the first issue of this five issue mini-series spin-off has a good shot at making it home based on the strength of the art alone.


Brief DC Thoughts

I have mixed emotions about DC’s announcements this week regarding a line-wide reboot and their digital release approach. It’s essentially divided by whether or not I choose to view the news from the retail perspective or the fan perspective, essentially capturing the commerce vs. art paradigm pretty succinctly. I completely sympathize with retailer outcry on this. Launching dozens of first issues, simultaneously, on top of a day and date release strategy is a bold decisive move (which I’m generally a fan of), but it comes with a very high appetite for risk. It potentially has major repercussions and/or disastrous consequences, the effects of which cannot be predicted, nor redacted once set in motion. It is the very definition of a high risk, high reward proposition.

Purely as a fan though? I’m actually pretty excited about it. Conceptually. I say “conceptually” because I would like to think that for me personally this could be a major jumping on point. I’ve long been out of touch with the happenings in the DCU. There hasn’t been a book for years that I felt I could really get a grasp on, much less support financially, one that would anchor me in the DCU, and one that was left unfettered by major event upheaval, rotating creative teams, inconsistent quality, or started and aborted attempts. In theory, I’d love to be buying and enjoying a Justice League book, Justice League International sounds fun to anyone who read it in the 80's, Mister Terrific is an interesting character to tinker with… Nightwing, Batgirl, yes, I’d love to be buying and enjoying these books! But ultimately it comes right down to perceived value. The bottom line is that if this publishing strategy yields better comics, then I’m in. But so many questions follow. Can good creative teams be tasked? Can that be sustained? I like Jim Lee’s art, but honestly, how many issues can the guy consecutively crank out judging by past performances? At this point, the only two books that have really caught my eye are a) the assumable Batwoman (finally!) restart by JH Williams III, and b) Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. As far as I’m concerned Azz & Chiang are a top tier creative team with a proven track record that seems well suited for this character. I’ve never purchased a Wonder Woman comic that I can recall, but I’ll be first in line for this. That in itself seems like a win. If there are more experiences like this than off-putting options which don't pull new and old readers in, then maybe this will actually work.

6.01.11 Review

Uncanny X-Force #11 (Marvel): Rick Remender and (yet another) fill-in artist Mark Brooks start part 1 of the Dark Angel Saga, moving the team with Dark Beast into the dystopian alternate Age of Apocalypse timeline. If I have to have a fill-in artist, Mark Brooks is thankfully probably the best I’ve seen so far. His style is more Jerome Opena than Billy Tan, with a dash of Jim Lee thrown in for good measure. Whether you’re a fan of Jim Lee or not, his style really did help define the modern look of the X-Men. Deadpool’s banter makes a comeback, and there are plenty of cameos as the team tries to find the Celestial “Life Seed” to help save Warren from Archangel. We get to see Nightcrawler, Sabretooth, Sunfire, and more, along with a surprise appearance at the end within the Atlantis stronghold. One of the best things about this title is the nice balance between swift plot development and small character moments. The action isn’t mindless, but rooted in the way the characters’ mutant powers actually work. In the middle of all that, you get things like the sexual tension and mental energy between Fantomex and Psylocke really heating up subtly. I really like the way Remender is positioning Logan as an introspective leader, and one more aligned with Charles Xavier’s dream than Scott’s more militant stance seems to be currently, probably done so as a favor to Jason Aaron and his impending X-Men: Schism storyline. The inevitability of the Rise of Apocalypse also lends a somber tone that I’m really into. By the end, you realize that this book has action, shared history that remains accessible, along with those fun character moments. It’s basically everything you’d want from an X-Men book. Grade A.